DNA work could help families of missing soldiers

November 20, 2010 4:24:15 PM PST
For some, it has been decades since their loved ones went missing in combat, but even so, their families do not stop seeking answers.

Representatives of the Defense Department's POW-MIA office were in the Bay Area Saturday to meet with families.

Decades have passed since some of the country's missing service members were in combat. They fought in World War II, the Cold War, Korea, and Vietnam. More than 83,000 are still missing.

"You never have the body to put it to rest, to end the saga," says Craig DeSoto who's father is missing.

The DeSoto's struggle has lasted 41 years. That is when Ernest DeSoto disappeared while fighting in Vietnam.

"We took him to the bus and that was the last time I saw him, and he said to my mom and dad, 'Take care of her for me,'" Earnest's wife Joyce says.

On April 12, 1969, the airman's plane was shot down.

"I never thought he was dead. I thought when the war was over, that maybe he would come home," Joyce says.

However, the father of three never did. Now, his wife and son are turning to the Department of Defense for help. Every two years, the feds visit the Bay Area to meet with families of servicemen who are still considered missing in action.

"My brother and one other person went missing, missing in action, over night," Virgil Freeman says. "They had no idea what happened."

For some, it has become their life's mission to find out what happened. Virgil Freeman is 90. His younger brother disappeared while fighting in the Korean War.

"It was hard for me," he says.

At least now, science is on their side. On Saturday, family members gave DNA samples to the government. Oftentimes, scientists do not even have the missing soldier's DNA. That is why it is important to test a lot of people in the family, to try to figure it out including brothers, cousins and even the soldier's own children.

"When we get bone samples in from the missing service members, we can test and compare the DNA sequence from the missing service member's sample to the reference, and we can hopefully make a connection and allow those individuals to be buried," DNA analyst Jennie McMahon says.

It is the closure they need, but fear they may never get.

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