What will you do on Memorial Day?
Do your plans include going to the beach? Will you go boating on a lake or river, before joining friends and family for a barbecue?
As you go about celebrating your long holiday weekend, please take a moment to think about some of your fellow Americans who made the ultimate sacrifice for the rest of us.
I would submit that the ultimate sacrifice for some was not death, but rather, disappearance into a black hole as a prisoner of war or missing in action.
To put a human face on the problem, consider one casualty: Navy Lt. Barton S. Creed, whose fate is shrouded in the mists of time and neglect by a government willing to write him off as expendable.
Creed, an Annapolis graduate, was lost 50 years ago while on a bombing mission over the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos.
On March 13, 1971, Creed’s A-7 Corsair fighter/bomber was hit by anti-aircraft fire, and he was forced to bail out over enemy territory. His parachute opened, but he had suffered a broken leg and arm in the ejection.
From the ground, Creed was in radio contact with U.S. airmen overhead. He was definitely alive when search-and-rescue helicopters attempted to reach him.
“Get me out now!” Creed pleaded desperately and frantically to those who could hear him, as North Vietnamese soldiers approached him.
The rescuers were unable to reach Creed because of the intense groundfire.
First listed as MIA, Creed’s status was later upgraded to POW, as he was known to have been alive on the ground.
One POW who returned in Operation Homecoming in 1973 told his debriefers he, while being interrogated by communist officers, had seen what appeared to be Creed’s military ID card.
That is not all. Beginning in 1981, during the Reagan administration, a U.S. Army Special Forces unit ran a covert intelligence operation in Southeast Asia.
The unit’s network of agents in Laos had gathered information on 26 Americans still alive in communist captivity.
Task Force Omega, a private nonprofit group involved in the POW/MIA issue, notes Creed was one of those 26 men.
His name was also on a “Last Known Alive” list released by the U.S. government in 1991, as interest in the fate of the missing Americans surged in the Congress and across the nation. Yet, there was no high-level effort to seek the return of those in a latter-day no man’s land.
“Barton Creed is one of nearly 600 Americans who disappeared in Laos,” reports Task Force Omega.
“Fighter pilots were called upon to fly in many dangerous circumstances, and they were prepared to be wounded, killed or captured,” Task Force Omega’s summary of Creed’s loss continues. “It probably never occurred to them that they would be abandoned by the country they so proudly served.”
Think about it.