Our Opinion: Families deserve Korean War closure

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Our Opinion: Thirty-two members of the U.S. military from Berkshire County died in the Korean War, leaving a gap for their families that could never really be closed. Four of those families never even received the closure that the return of remains and the appropriate services could provide. Their loved ones remain in the limbo of "missing and presumed dead."

Last week, 55 boxes of remains were flown from South Korea to Hawaii, and while the odds are long, those remains offer hope for that closure for many families around the U.S., including the four families of the Berkshire MIAs (Larry Parnass, Berkshire Eagle, Aug. 8.) Those four men are Michael William Flaherty and William Henry Moss of North Adams, Robert Gordon Russell of Adams and Albert Mintz of Sheffield.

The Korean War, with its inconclusive ending, was in a sense the first of America's modern day wars. An armistice was signed 65 years ago but a peace treaty was never reached and Korea remains divided between North and South. The mismanaged Vietnam War ended ignominiously for the U.S., as did the similarly politicized Iraq War. The war in Afghanistan, the longest in U.S. history, lingers on in the background of American life. World War II, where allied forces defeated Nazi Germany and Japan, was the last conclusive war from which U.S. soldiers returned home as conquering heroes.

The inconclusive nature of the following wars, however, is no reflection on those who fought in them. Those veterans have over the decades begun to receive the recognition due them and greater efforts have been made to account for those who did not return. Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, a former secretary of state, and Senator John McCain of Arizona, both Vietnam veterans, led a concerted effort to identify and return home the remains of Vietnam veterans — today, roughly 2,500 remain missing in action. About 7,700 service members who fought in the Korean War remain unaccounted for, largely because of a lack of cooperation on the part of North Korea, where 5,300 of those missing are believed to have died. The 55 boxes of remains were released amid talks between North Korea and the Trump administration.

Jim Clark, Pittsfield's director of veterans services, and Stephen R. Roy, director of veterans services for North Berkshire, emphasized to The Eagle how important it is to families to resolve the status of their missing loved ones, regardless of how long ago they died and how long the process of identification takes. That much is owed the families and the soldiers who came from the Berkshires and elsewhere to fight and die in a foreign war.


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