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MIA Project explained

MIA Project explained

By Jean-Philippe Speder


     On our way back to Belgium, after the Kentucky Convention, our Digger contingent had plenty of time to exchange opinions and feelings about the convention.

     Since Marc Marique and Jean-Luc Menestrey were first-timers, we questioned them more thoroughly. We discovered that the Diggers were well-known by the majority of the members. Fewer of the members knew about the MIA Project and many of the members thought that the Diggers were the MIA Project. There was a general opinion among many that a search for MIAs starts in the forest by hiking through the battlefields and scanning them with metal detectors. Some even thought there was some money motivation paid by the U.S. Government.

     Having received so much attention and so many signs of friendship and appreciation troubled us. Not that we didn't enjoy the attention and the opportunity to meet so many friends and get together with them, but there are other people in the MIA Project who serve the Project and never receive credit for all of their efforts. After our group discussed our feelings about this lack of recognition for others on our team, we agreed that some thing must be done to set the record straight. I was selected to do this.

     MIA Project: U.S.A. (The Searchers) — Richard Byers (1922-2001), Bill Warnock, Vernon Swanson, Rex Whitehead, B.A. Whitmarsh. BELGIUM (The Diggers) — Jean-Luc Menestrey, Marc Marique, Jean-Louis Seel, Jean-Philippe Speder.

     All of you must keep in mind that the search for MIAs is as complicated as the quest for the Holy Grail. Our Searchers must spend countless hours, even days, in the National Archives scanning tons of reports, sketches, overlays, maps, photos, and aerial photographs. Then each item is double checked.

     Veterans' recollections, though correct in their own minds, must sometimes be interpreted. For obvious reasons, a clear recollection of 50-year-old event is very difficult to obtain and a wrong detail can orient a search in the opposite direction.

     Almost every scrap of information must be verified and verified again. This ungrateful but so vital task is done by Bill Warnock, the MIA Project's Chief Researcher.

     Once most pieces of the puzzle match, the information is passed on to the Diggers, the "On-site Search Team." They sweep the battlefields to find other pieces that match the same puzzle. If they are fortunate, they will finally find the last piece of the puzzle that leads to the unmarked grave of an MIA.

     The successes of the MIA Project are the result of teamwork; a total cooperation between the WWII veterans and the Searchers and Diggers. The members of the MIA Project pay their own expenses. Their only motivation is to recover fallen comrades and soldiers to give them a proper and decent burial. Between the Searchers and Diggers there is a strong feeling of friendship and mutual respect. The Diggers and the Searchers share a feeling of pride and honor which goes even further than the recovery of a fallen soldier.

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