Family member cites father's recovery at ceremony

  • Published
  • By Elaine Wilson
  • American Forces Press Service
A small crowd gathered in the shadow of the Pentagon Sept. 17 to honor the nation's missing servicemembers and to reaffirm America's commitment to bringing them home.

Seated among the servicemembers, dressed in colorful dress uniforms, was a group of family members who had traveled here to attend the National POW/MIA Recognition Day ceremony. Some wore hats bearing the names of their POW/MIA organizations, and others proudly displayed the names of their missing loved ones on white badges.

Colleen Shine's black dress stood out in the sea of color, but her attitude was anything but mournful. She brought a message of hope to the ceremony.

Shine was 8 years old when she was told her dad, an Air Force pilot, was gone. Lt. Col. Anthony Shine was flying an A-7D reconnaissance jet over the border of Laos and Vietnam on Dec. 2, 1972, when he vanished, she later found out. He was just two months into his second tour in Vietnam.

Her mother, Bonnie, was left with three children and countless unanswered questions. Over time, three generations of the Shine family came together to bring light to the POW/MIA issue.

"I remember being a kid on the playground handing out POW/MIA flyers," Shine recalled.

The family lived with the uncertainty of Anthony Shine's fate for 14 years. Finally, in 1987, Shine was told of a crash site that was possibly linked to her father, and a helmet that may have belonged to him.

Shine said she made three trips to Vietnam to find answers. Villagers had scavenged the site, and remains had either been washed away or eaten by animals, she said. But she was able to find pieces of an aircraft and, in a nearby village, a helmet bearing her father's name.

Her efforts prompted government experts to conduct a more extensive investigation, and in 1996, Shine finally got the answers she'd been wanting for more than two decades. Remains matching her father's DNA had been found.

His burial at Arlington National Cemetery, 24 years after he'd gone missing, brought much-needed closure to the Shine family.

And his recovery demonstrated to all families of missing servicemembers that "answers are possible," she said.

Over the years, the technology to locate and recover missing troops has advanced greatly in scope and sophistication, and 600 people now labor to achieve a full accounting of every missing servicemember.

At today's ceremony, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates noted that in the past year, Defense Department teams have accounted for 66 formerly missing Americans, including 15 from the Vietnam War, 16 from the Korean War, 34 from World War II and one from World War I.

The nation's ongoing commitment to this issue is due, in part, to family members and other citizens banding together to establish advocacy groups, Gates said. "They help ensure that the U.S. government does everything it can to find MIAs and help POWs during their captivity," he added.

Shine joined the National League of POW/MIA Families years ago to ensure the issue stays prominently in the public eye. The organization works toward a full accounting of the more than 1,700 Americans still listed as missing and unaccounted for from the Vietnam War.

"I feel proud to be a part of this organization," she said. "My commitment and my family's commitment to this issue will be lifelong. And I'm proud to promote days like today so our servicemembers know we have their back when they go to war."