Ambassador Kritenbrink Remarks: National POW/MIA Recognition Day

Friday, September 20, 2019
DPAA Detachment 2 Annex, Hanoi

Good morning to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency Detachment Two team, and to our friends and colleagues who join us here for this important occasion.

I am truly honored to be with you on the 2019 National POW/MIA Recognition Day, an annual event during which Americans pause to reflect on the sacrifices of service members who were held captive and returned, but also those who have yet to return home. The United States remains firmly committed to the fullest possible accounting for those U.S. personnel who are still missing.

The black and white POW/MIA flag, one of the most recognizable symbols of our generation, today will fly over our national and state capitals as a poignant reminder to our citizens of the high cost of freedom. The POW/MIA flag is much more than the symbols contained on it. This flag stands for the sacrifices of the people of our great nation that protected our way of life and their love ones that stood waiting for their return.

Today, we acknowledge that while such ceremonial recognition is certainly warranted, simple recognition is insufficient to honor our past warriors. Remembering them, whose earthly remains have not been recovered from foreign lands, it is incumbent on us, the beneficiaries of the freedoms for which these brave warriors perished, to make every attempt to return their remains to their families, who have waited with such faithful anticipation these many years. We as a nation are committed to achieving the fullest possible accounting for our missing and that effort is in full evidence here in Vietnam and around the world.

The accounting mission continues to move steadily forward and remains a key element in our relationship with the Government of Vietnam. For more than three decades, we have proudly sustained our cooperation with the Government of Vietnam on this accounting mission, and are grateful for Vietnam’s partnership in this noble endeavor. Through this mission, both sides took a step forward building the foundations for trust and common purpose. Work on this humanitarian issue formed the “bridge” that allowed our two countries to normalize relations in 1995. Foundations necessary for establishing today’s strong partnership between the United States and Vietnam – a true friendship and partnership grounded in mutual respect and a shared commitment for peace and prosperity.

Last March during an excavation site visit just outside of the former Kham Duc Special Forces Camp, I witnessed the dedication and cooperation between American and Vietnamese teams, partnered to recover one of our fallen soldiers. For me, this striking experience is a vivid reminder of our government’s steadfast commitment to this noble humanitarian mission, which the U.S. Embassy supports in every possible capacity.

America’s monumental effort to recover our missing from the Vietnam War, as well as from more distant historical conflicts, was unprecedented from its inception and is now being emulated by other governments around the world, including Vietnam. The universal humanitarian appeal of the professional warrior’s creed to leave no one behind provides us with an opportunity to transcend the tendency to wage war, engendering sincere cooperation among former enemies.

As we prepare for the formal portion of today’s ceremony, please reflect on the special sacrifices the missing have made for their country, as well as the sacred duty of our nation to bring home those who truly gave their last full measure of devotion to preserve our nation’s freedoms.

Thank you for being here today.