JPAC works to identify the unknowns at National Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl

National Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl
National Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl

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The Joint Prisoners of War Missing in Action Accounting Command has come under fire in a recent report. There are charges of mismanagement of funds.

Whether or not those charges are founded remains to be seen, but the fact is JPAC has been instrumental in identifying remains of many missing soldiers and sailors oversees.

The solemn surroundings at the National Cemetery of the Pacific at Punchbowl don’t instantly reveal that there are hundreds of unknowns buried there.

“In this one area here, we have close to 800 sets of unknown American remains from the Korean War. JPAC uses this location to help fulfill what I think is their mandate to try to identify some 200 remains every year of our unknown Americans,” Director of the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific Gene Castagnetti said.

Castagnetti has nothing but praise for the work that JPAC does.

“This is very important because America has made a promise that we will go to any extreme to try to recover and a full accounting of these remains for the family members,” Castagnetti said.

There are about three disinterments every month and this is the only cemetery in the national Veteran Affairs system where Korean War unknowns are buried.

So far, 34 sets of remains from that war have been identified and reclaimed by families. The technology improves all the time.

“They’ve recently discovered that the clavicle bone in our shoulder has very unique features. That along with the dental records and the DNA and other anatomical data gives them more opportunity with these variables to make to make a clearer identification,” Castagnetti said.

In a way, it is a race against time as older family members pass away.

Castagnetti said JPAC is trying to beat the clock.

Related story: Report: Joint POW/MIA Command on Oahu “inept, mismanaged and wasteful”

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