Welcome home, Captain

We’ve talked before about what happens if to you if you are wounded. We’ve talked before about what happens if you are killed. But there’s another category that people in the service just don’t like to talk about much- what happens if you are missing?

On Saturday, officials from the Department of Defense notified next of kin that the remains of Capt. Scott Speicher had been identified.

The remains of the first American lost in the Gulf War have been found in Iraq, the military said Sunday, a sorrowful resolution of a nearly two-decade old question about the fate of Navy Capt. Michael “Scott” Speicher.

Capt. Speicher, then a Leiutenant Commander, was piloting an F/A-18 Hornet on the first night of strikes during Operation Desert Storm. He was apparently shot down by an Iraqi MiG-25. In the confusion of that night, no one realized at first that he had been shot down.

Capt. Speicher was variously listed as missing, missing- presumed killed in action, missing, and missing- captured. I’ve long been skeptical that he was alive.

But the point is this- dead or alive, your country will never stop looking for you. The armed forces jointly operate several teams that look for missing service members from all our nation’s wars. Sometimes, they have success. More often, frustration. But they never cease.

A personal vignette. Shortly after my father died, and his obituary had time to circulate, I received a call from an older man. It was the brother of the only crewman to go missing from my Dad’s squadron in Vietnam. He of course wanted to pass on his condolences. But he also had to check to see if Dad had passed on anything about his brother. He could leave no stone unturned. I felt terrible. I knew what my father’s fate was. I knew he had lived a good life. A long life. And I knew he had passed surrounded by his family. And I felt worse that I couldn’t give a comforting answer to this man, looking for his brother.

Today is a day of sorrow for the family of Capt. Speicher. But perhaps it is also a day of closure. There are many other families waiting. Perhaps some day, closure will come to comfort them as well.

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