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National Commander Message

National Commander Message

Nancy Espinosa, Commander

DAV committed to those who never returned from war

Never leave a fallen comrade behind.

That’s a principle embedded in military ethos. As DAV members, it’s one we all continue to live by. Across generations, we have advocated for our fellow veterans forever changed by service. We fight to make sure those who were made ill or injured get the care they were promised. We ensure their families—who also made sacrifices—have access to the support and benefits they earned.

It’s how we make sure no one is left behind. But it’s not the only way.

Earlier this year, I had the incredible honor of visiting the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) Laboratory location in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. DPAA’s mission is to provide the fullest accounting of missing service members to their families and to the nation. In doing so, DPAA allows us to honor fallen service members, their legacies and their families.

Much of that work is done at the DPAA Laboratory. With three locations, it is the largest and most diverse skeletal laboratory in the world. It’s where scientists, anthropologists and archaeologists collaborate to analyze recovered remains from across the world and from conflicts stretching back to World War II.

They study tissue, DNA and dental records to build a biological profile of the person and, in the best-case scenario, are able to compare evidence to family samples and identify exactly who the remains belong to. In more challenging cases, they test isotopes from bones to determine the person’s diet, which can help identify to which population they belong. Between October 2022 and September 2023, DPAA accounted for and identified 158 service members who were previously missing.

Seeing this work up close was truly remarkable. It was comforting and reassuring to see so many people behind the scenes dedicated to the same ethos all of us live by. I was proud to be there, to remind DPAA that DAV is a partner in its mission.

DAV’s Interim POW/MIA Committee—on which I had the privilege of serving from 2014 to 2015—is committed to supporting DPAA and other efforts that raise awareness of our service members missing in action and honor their memory. The committee meets regularly to discuss pertinent information and informs the national organization of actionable issues.

As a national organization, DAV has adopted resolutions that expand support for DPAA and call for the return of the remains of any Americans who died in war service abroad, among other resolutions.

With more than 81,000 service members still missing, I urge all of us to rededicate ourselves to advocating for those who never returned home from war and for their families. DAV’s Interim POW/MIA Committee has a guide for departments and chapters creating their own POW/MIA initiatives, which can be found at dav.org, under the POW/MIA section of the Veterans Topics & Resources page.

 

If you want to find out more about the National Commander, you can find her biography here.