WASHINGTON – U.S. Senators Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and four Senate colleagues introduced the Bring Our Heroes Home Act (BOHHA), which would eliminate obstacles preventing families and caseworkers from accessing the records needed for recovering America’s prisoners of war (POWs) and missing in action (MIA). According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, more than 81,500 Americans — including 1,143 Louisianans — remain unaccounted for from World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Cold War, the Gulf Wars, and other conflicts.
“The families of servicemembers do not wear a uniform, but they make sacrifices as well,” said Dr. Cassidy. “We owe it to the families of America’s prisoners of war and missing in action to make it as easy as possible to gain information and to have closure.”
“It is imperative that we continue to recognize and remember all of the sacrifices America’s servicemembers, past and present, have made in service to defending our nation and our freedom,” said Senator Crapo. “America’s heroes and their families deserve this reduction in bureaucratic red tape as we make a strong effort to identify and recover those who have not yet made it back home.”
“Families of service members who went missing in action have borne an incredible emotional and psychological burden as many have waited years, sometimes even decades, for information about their lost loved ones to emerge. Moreover, there are many families who still do not know the fate of their loved ones. These families and their loved ones have sacrificed for our country, and we have an obligation to support them in their search to learn what happened to their family members,” said Senator Shaheen. “The bipartisan Bring Our Heroes Home Act would ensure that the records of service members are properly collected, declassified when appropriate, and made public, helping honor their legacy and heal their families. Our lost servicemembers cannot be forgotten or left behind.”
The Senate bill would consolidate all records related to missing personnel within a newly instituted Missing Armed Forces and Civilian Personnel Records Collection at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) and require all government agencies to transmit any missing servicemember and civilian records to NARA. The measure would also establish an independent government office, the Missing Armed Forces and Civilian Personnel Records Review Board, to identify missing personnel records, facilitate the transmission and disclosure of these records, and review any decisions by federal agencies to postpone declassification.
Cassidy, Crapo, and Shaheen were joined by U.S. Senators Jim Risch (R-ID), John Thune (R-SD), Marsha Blackburn (R-TN), and Mike Rounds (R-SD) in cosponsoring this legislation.
“Thousands of American service members have remained missing in action for decades without an accounting of what happened to them,” said Donna Knox, Coalition of Families of Korean & Cold War POW/MIAs co-founder. “I know the pain. My father is one of them. This wound will never heal, for any families of the missing, unless answers are provided. Until now, our country has failed to impose a mandate on its government that all information pertaining to our POW/MIAs must be located and declassified, subject only to narrow exceptions. The Bring Our Heroes Home Act will change that. It will hold our government accountable to the American people for information that has been brushed aside and locked away for more than seventy years. The United States cannot claim to ‘leave no man behind’ unless it does everything possible to make sure every servicemember’s fate is made known to his or her family. Finally, there will be reason to expect transparency from agencies that have hidden behind secrecy markings for too long. It is with much enthusiasm and appreciation that I endorse the BOHHA. I urge members of both the House and the Senate to co-sponsor this bill and to encourage their colleagues to do the same.”
“We congratulate and applaud the reintroduction of the Bring Our Heroes Home Act. For decades, families of American POW/MIAs have waited to learn the fate of our missing loved ones,” said Richard L. Downes, Coalition of Families of Korean & Cold War POW/MIAs President. “All too often, efforts to get answers have been thwarted by an inability to gain access to important information. Documents such as prisoner debriefings, live sightings and other pertinent Intelligence reports that could shed light on a serviceman’s fate have remained classified. Freedom of Information Act requests sometimes go unanswered for years. Many significant documents exist unbeknownst to families and other researchers. For these reasons, and many more, the BOHHA is long overdue! This legislation will be a valuable tool in the hands of families and others who seek the fullest possible accounting for missing American service personnel.”
“The Bring Our Heroes Home Act strongly indicts the inaction of the Federal bureaucracy that, despite years of promises, has conspicuously failed to fully consolidate, declassify, index and make public considerable numbers of records, documents and other intelligence that could directly impact and enhance the efforts to provide accountability to and closure for thousands of families of missing and unreturned veterans, however and wherever they were lost. Hopefully, this Act will compel our Government agencies to complete this critical and honorable task as quickly as possible. Hopefully, too, this will convincingly demonstrate to the governments of Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia that the people of the United States remain committed to the fullest possible accounting of our missing and unreturned American service personnel,” said Mark Stephensen, Vice Chairman of the Board of Directors for the National League of POW/MIA Families.
“The VFW supports the Bring Our Heroes Home Act that eliminates the bureaucracy which prevents record access needed to assist in the recovery of service members categorized as Prisoners of War (POWs), Missing in Action (MIA) and missing civilian personnel who directly supported this nations conflicts. According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, multiple wars to include World War II, Korean War, Vietnam, the Cold War, Iraq, and other conflicts have resulted in nearly 82,000 Americans unaccounted for,” said Quandrea Patterson, Associate Director VFW’s National Legislative Service. “This is an unacceptable tragedy, and the VFW will remain vigilant in ensuring that all efforts are being exhausted in bringing our hero’s home.”