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Mullings by Rich Galen
A Political Cyber-Column By Rich Galen
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The Searchers

Rich Galen

Friday August 26, 2005

  • Adrian Cronauer, occasional lunch pal, was standing next to me at the check-in kiosk at Reagan National the other day. Where are you off to? When do you get back? What time's your flight? Want to wait with me in the Crown Room? Meet you at security.

  • He was flying to Salt Lake City to speak at the VFW Convention and his flight didn't leave for a couple of hours so we shared a cup of coffee in the Delta Crown Room.

  • The first time we were scheduled to meet Adrian warned me, "I don't look like Robin Williams. I look like Robert Bork."

  • Mr. Cronauer is best known, of course, for the way Robin Williams portrayed him in the movie, "Good Morning, Vietnam." But that is not the best thing he's done. The best thing he's done is what he's doing now.

  • Adrian Cronauer, a government lawyer (law school was paid for, in part, by the screenplay he wrote which led to the famous movie) devotes his time and considerable talent as far away from being a wisecracking military disc jockey as one can get: He works with the Pentagon unit charged with locating the remains of American military personnel who are Missing in Action.

  • Cronauer doesn't do shtick, doesn't do on-liners, isn't manic, and doesn't speak in rapid-fire sentences. He is a serene gentleman who goes to uncomfortable places to meet with sometimes uncooperative people to help bring American heroes home to the families who kissed them goodbye, often, many decades earlier.

  • Recently, Army Captain David Smith, as reported in the Dayton Daily News by Ismail Turay, Jr. was "buried with military honors at the Dayton National Cemetery, bringing closure for a family which has grieved for more than 36 years."

  • "How did you find him," I asked Adrian? "Good detective work." The Vietnamese aren't terribly helpful, he said, but neither do they obstruct. "If you ask the right question, they'll answer it, but they won't suggest which question to ask next."

  • A part of the process was described by reporter Rod Duren on the Gulf1 website:
    The recovery teams go to sites previously identified by investigational teams as having a high likelihood of American service member remains present. Sites are selected from "real-time" Search and Rescue log entries, witness accounts from either U.S. forces in the area at the time of the crash or locals through subsequent interviews.

  • The Pentagon believes there are some 88,000 service members unaccounted for including 78,000 from World War II; 8,100 from Korea; 1,800 from Vietnam and one from the Gulf War.

  • Cronauer said that there have been times when the only government-to-government contact between the US and North Korea has been through the work of his unit.

  • Out of the glare of any media spotlight, Adrian Cronauer and his teammates will go anywhere on the planet to check out any report that the remains of an American service member have been found - or might be found - in a particular spot.

  • From a piece by reporter Debbie Bryce in the Idaho State Journal:
    Vickie Stephensen was a 35-year-old mother of four when her husband, Col. Mark L. Stephensen, was listed as missing in action in 1967. She held out hope for more than 20 years that he would be returned to her.

    In April 1988 she was notified that her husband's remains had been identified.

    "We were relieved and grateful to get him back," she said. "I always wondered where he was. Now I know. He's in Riverton, Utah. And I stop to see him often"

  • Ismail Turay wrote,
    "Two days before his death, [Cpt.] Smith was scheduled to return home to watch [his] niece, Betty Boisel, graduate from high school.

    "He's just a little late," a teary-eyed Boisel, 54, said after the funeral service. "But he's finally home."

  • The United States will never stop searching for its missing service members, Adrian Cronauer once told me.

  • Good hunting, my friend.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: A photo of Adrian Cronauer; Links to the articles referenced above; A Mullfoto which I thought was funny; and a Catchy Caption of the Day.

    --END --
    Copyright © 2005 Richard A. Galen


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