Ten Years Ago—He’s Coming Home!

crosby analysis photo

It was 10 years ago today, November 28 that my brother’s remains were “officially” declared identified. He had been listed as Missing in Action, Vietnam, since 10 January 1970.  “Officially” meaning that even though the DNA match had been a success, and all reports had been completed, Mom (Primary Next of Kin) still had to accept the findings by signing the documents presented to her this day in 2006. A very long 36 years searching for answers.

It had also been a very long 2006. We (Mom, my sister, and me) had known [unofficially] of his remains being identified since February when I attended the regional POW/MIA Family Update in Savannah, Georgia that year. The Army representative for Herby’s case couldn’t give me Herby’s name then, but confirmed “two crew members had been identified.”

The Department of POW/MIA Office (DPMO) still had more work to be done before they could officially release his name to us (a satellite photograph had to be taken of the location they assumed the helicopter to be and they had to meet with the other crew member’s family). Because of this he strongly advised that we not announce our “good news” until it was official. He smiled though, telling me what to expect in the coming months. I can’t tell you enough how my heart was leaping for joy, yet crying like a baby for the bittersweet heartache I was feeling that beautiful day. And, I couldn’t tell anyone! I was afraid I’d jinx the reports if I did tell someone. I couldn’t help it, I did tell my best friend who I was visiting later that day. I knew she’d keep our secret.

Here we were though, nine months later, being presented the analysis results. Finally, getting the story of what took place over the past 37 years of searching for Herby.

Mom was anxious. I was anxious, and so was Dan, on this most significant Tuesday morning. Paul Bethke, Director of the Department of POW/MIA Office (now the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency) at the Pentagon, arrived mid morning to present the findings that would close Case #1547. Major Kenneth Gambles, our new assigned Casualty Officer, was with him. It was a day I will forever hold dear, always.

After introductions and greetings we set down at the kitchen table to go page by page through the thick booklet of documents, reports, and findings. Paul went through each section, explaining in detail the scenarios of what they believed happened, remains repatriation, who was interviewed, the witness stories, where the helicopter was presumed to be (it’s location still not confirmed) in the journey of identifying his remains.

This session lasted just over four hours. That’s right, over four hours we listened, asked questions, taking only one break. Talk about information overload, yet we were glued to every word Mr. Bethke spoke, every page he flipped. Our eyes wide open, we focused to absorb everything he said. At this time, remains consisted of one tooth in which DNA (provided by myself and my sister) matched without a doubt to Herby. It was amazing. [In 2011, five additional teeth, and two bone shards were identified.)

At the end of the session, Paul picked up a velvet pouch he had placed on the table at the beginning of the briefing. He opened the pouch, leaned toward Mom telling her, “this is for you Mrs. Crosby,” as he pulled out a dog tag. Not only had the tooth been identified, but the dog tag Herby wore that tragic day, was also among his remains. As he handed the dog tag to Mom, my heart broke again. She took it, looked it over closely, rubbing it back and forth with her fingers as if it were gold. It was. After what seemed endless time, she lifted her head, looked at Paul and said, “this is all I have left of my son,” as she closed her hand around the dog tag pulling it to her heart. I can still see the emotion in her face. Tears were streaming down my face, and everyone else at the table.

Paul went on to tell us of burial options. Burial? We had not even thought of that. One option was that Herby could be buried in Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors. Being the Primary Next of Kin, Mom had final decision to make for this too.

herby crosby donalsonville grave Since the time Herby had been declared dead in November 1974, we had a grave marker for him in the family plot at Friendship Memorial Gardens  in Donalsonville, Georgia. We just assumed if he ever returned that’s where he would be buried. We never gave up hope that he would come home alive, and not need that spot.

However, when the Arlington option was given, Mom thought that would be the appropriate final resting place for her son. She knew Dad would be proud to know his son would be in our country’s most hallowed, sacred cemetery. Herby deserved this honor. So it was determined then that’s where he would be buried. We chose a funeral date as close to Herby’s birthday (traditional Memorial Day) for the following year.

The Press Release from the Department of Defense was published 19 December 2006. I had no idea the impact that would follow. Lives would once again change forever. We could finally announce Herby was finally coming home after 37 years.

Our family was one of the lucky ones, a success story for the National League of POW/MIA Families. I know, without a doubt, that if not for this League, my brother’s remains would have never been repatriated and finally identified. The League is the one group that has stood their ground, while tirelessly, diligently working with the government, in their mission to account for every Vietnam POW and MIA. I remain a member of this very important organization.

I have been blessed beyond words by the affection and reach my brother had with his comrades [especially the Rattlers and Firebirds] throughout his Army life, including his Missing In Action years.

This day in 2006 was so emotional, so bittersweet for not only me, but for all our family and friends. Herby was on his way home. I could finally shout it from the rooftop! “Herby is coming home. Thank you, God. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.”

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POW/MIA Recognition Day 2016

pow_mia_poster_2016It’s National POW/MIA Recognition Day today. If you’re a member of my family, close friend, you know the pain we lived for years, waiting, praying, seeking, and hoping for information about my brother, Herby (Capt. Herbert C Crosby). He was listed MIA January 10, 1970. Lives certainly changed forever that day.

After 37 years our family became as “success story” with the National League of POW/MIA Families. Herby’s remains had been repatriated, and identified, and now buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Never giving up hope. Prayers answered in a way we preferred not, but they were answered, and we are forever grateful to the League and to the Department of POW/MIA Accounting for their tireless work in the accountability process. (It’s a daunting, never ending job, yet so very rewarding.)

Today, I remember and honor all the POWs and MIAs and their families. I personally know two Hanoi Hilton POWs who are alive today. I’ve met and had fellowship with many POWs from WWII to Vietnam. Their lives, their families, deserve today’s recognition to let them know we love them, we care, and we never gave up on them, ever. Once we give up on our defenders, we have no country. Think about that, I can only imagine. My hope today is that everyone take a moment to teach your young about who these soldiers were, these real life heroes who some sacrificed their lives for our freedom.

Earlier this month I received a notice to approve a post on Herby’s website. I must tell you this touched my heart deeply because, well, you read his story (in the comments section of this site’s home page) and you’ll know why. It starts off:

My grandfather served in Vietnam and retired from the military. As a boy growing up my grandpa always told me he served his time so I didn’t have to. Honoring our service men and women Has always been the 11th commandment for our family and POWs and MIAs have always been close to my family’s hearts.

In the summer of 2001,

So many these days don’t know, don’t care, yet bright stars drop in my InBox every so often to let me know they have or had a bracelet with my brother’s name on it. Their stories are unique, and so alike, they’re about caring.

Never forget.

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2016 Crosby Army ROTC Scholarship Awarded to Cadet Mendoza

marylou wade and cadet mendoza

Marylou Wade with Cadet Mendoza, Army ROTC Award Ceremony, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, April 2016

I look like a proud mother here, and in a way I am. I presented the 2016 Crosby Army ROTC Scholarship to Cadet Marcelo Gonzales de Mendoza at the Army ROTC (Eagle Battalion) 2016 Award Ceremony at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University (ERAU), Thursday, April 14. I have the pleasure of being among some of our country’s finest young men and women who will lead and defend our country, readily.

Meet Cadet Mendoza. What a fine young man. Well deserving of this year’s scholarship. He has already served two tours in Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) and one tour in Kuwait.

He graduated high school in Burnsville, North Carolina, in May 2003. That December he enlisted in the United States Air Force as a Fire Protection Apprentice. In 2005, having transferred into the US Air Force Reserves, he decided to continue military service by enlisting in the US Army as an infantryman. In July 2006, he deployed to Kirkuk, Iraq, for Operation Iraqi Freedom.

scholarship presentation

Marylou Wade presenting Crosby Scholarship to Cadet Mendoza. Capt Crosby story portrayed on screen.

Seeking further challenges in his military career, Mendoza applied for and was accepted to the Engineer Dive School. After deploying once again to OIF in October 2008, he returned stateside and transitioned to Phase Two at NSA Panama City, FL, where he spent seven months successfully completing his training to become a second class diver.

In 2009, has put his extensive dive training to work at Fort Eustis, VA, where he served with the 569th Dive Team to prepare the unit for an upcoming deployment. After promotion to Sergeant and attending the Warrior Leader Course at Fort Benning, GA, in 2011, Mendoza attended the Advanced Leader Course. After another deployment to Kuwait and promotion to Staff Sergeant, Mendoza elected to separate from active duty to pursue his higher education with a college degree at ERAU to study Aeronautics with a double minor in Aeronautical Studies and Aviation Law. After a year attending ERAU, Mendoza once again felt compelled to serve his county so he enrolled in the university’s Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) program. He hopes to branch infantry and pass his experience and knowledge on to other soldiers as a commissioned officer.

His experience and dedication is tremendous. It was such a pleasure to present the scholarship to this young man. He has already experienced extraordinary military success and has a bright future ahead of him. My husband and I enjoyed talking with him over dinner which followed the ceremony.

melvin morris

MOH Melvin Morris with Marylou Wade

This year a guest speaker was added to the ceremony. Recent Medal of Honor recipient, Sergeant First Class (Ret.) Melvin Morris spoke to the audience of young cadets, encouraging them to listen to their leaders. He said even though at such young age they may think they know it all, they don’t.  The only way to really learn was to listen, take heed, and when times get difficult on the battlefield, even in everyday life, everything that was taught to them would hold them strong. Listening was the key.

I had the pleasure to talk with Morris after the ceremony when I shared my brother’s (Capt. Crosby) story. He told me how very much he and his comrades counted on the helicopter pilots, for dear life itself during the Vietnam war.

eagle battalion 2016

The Army ROTC Eagle Battalion preparing for 2016 Award Ceremony.

It brings so much satisfaction and comfort too, knowing that the men and women of the Eagle Battalion are part of our country’s defense.

It is always a thrill of patriotism I feel when I am among the Eagle Battalion, especially dressed in their finest, and feeling they have accomplished so much during the year.

Blessings and success to them all, always.

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Forty-six Years Ago Today – January 10, 1970

herby crosby 1969I can’t believe it’s been 46 years ago today that my brother, Herby, left this world. A tragic casualty of war, the Vietnam war. “Life goes on,” so “they” say, yet the memories, the love remain deep-rooted, strong, if not stronger than ever in my heart.

Today I celebrate Herby. Tears of love roll gently down my face bursting when hitting the desk as I write. They glisten like crystal prisms from the light shining through the window to the right of me. Those wet sparkles somehow give me assurance that his death was not in vain. His sparkle of life touched everyone he came in contact with over his short time on this earth. He left many precious gifts to us all, and that’s what I celebrate today.

Young Army ROTC cadets have received scholarships, his comrades have become my friends, my brothers they are, and his sparkling personality, his charm is forever cemented in his family and friend’s hearts.

I was 11 years old when he joined the Army in 1966. I thought it was the most exciting, wonderful thing to be a sister of a soldier. Being so young at the time, I didn’t realize how precious every day was to have my brother around.

I so wish there would have been many precious memories made with Herby following this day in 1970, but that didn’t happen.

I strive to keep his honor, his legacy alive in any way I can. He is my passion. I am surrounded by not only his keepsakes and photos, but with colorful fabrics of those in my family who are gone, all of which give me comfort.

Herby, forever that fun-loving big brother whom I still adore, I miss you.

Remembering and honoring today, Firebird Nine One, Capt. Herbert C Crosby, and his crew, WO George “Andy” Howes, SP5 Wayne C. Allen, and SP4 Francis G. Graziosi.

firebird nine one crew drawing

Firebird 91 Crew

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National POW/MIA Day 2015

pow mia poster 2015

It’s National POW/MIA Day 2015. You see that black and white POW/MIA flag every day, even if you don’t realize it, you see this flag. It’s most likely you don’t even know a POW or MIA soldier. However, if you don’t know what the flag symbolizes or means, well, shame on you. Look it up here: http://www.pow-miafamilies.org/powmia-bracelets/

I remember the day my brother, Capt. Herbert C Crosby, U.S. Army, became a statistic, Case# [1547], and was woven into that flag. That was in 1970, January 10, the tragic day he was listed Missing in Action in Vietnam.

low-mia flagThe POW/MIA flag brings unity for a common cause throughout our country, especially with our military, veterans and their families. It’s a symbol of hope. A reminder of those who gave their ultimate sacrifice for our freedom.

My family’s lives, as all families who had/have a loved one lost, left behind, changed drastically, and forever. I thank God we were a lucky family. Lucky in a way I usually don’t refer to.  I liken it to finding a needle in a haystack. That’s lucky. My brother’s remains were repatriated [1989], identified [2006] and buried in American soil in Arlington National Cemetery [2007].

I personally know two exPOWs and met many from WWII, Korea, and Vietnam. Their stories are shocking and atrocious.  It was an honor to meet the exPOWs and hear them share their stories in 2010 at the National Prisoner of War Museum in Andersonville, Georgia. I still believe there are men still alive in Vietnam, although I can barely grasp the pure hell they would live.

Many families are still waiting. We honor today those families, and the men and women who have not made it home. We recognize and support them, the citizens, and the government’s efforts to find and repatriate every single missing warrior.

YOU ARE NOT FORGOTTEN.

Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. Ephesians 6:11

 

 

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POW/MIA Update – July 13, 2015

pow mia league

PROVIDED BY THE POW/MIA NATIONAL LEAGUE OF POW/MIA FAMILIES

AMERICANS ACCOUNTED FOR:  There still has been no published change to the number  unaccounted-for since the April 10th Update.  For various reasons, including wishes of the family, DoD announcements are often delayed far beyond the ID dates, and others are likely pending.  Several of those named this year were examples of how remains repatriated many years ago can now be identified using contemporary science that wasn’t available in earlier years. The number of Americans now listed by DoD as returned and identified since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is 956.  Another 63 US personnel, recovered by the US and identified before the end of the war, bring the total of US personnel accounted for from the Vietnam War to 1,019. Of the 1,627 still unaccounted-for, 90% were lost in Vietnam or in areas of Cambodia and Laos under Vietnam’s wartime control: Vietnam-1,269 (VN-467, VS-802); Laos-302; Cambodia-49; PRC territorial waters-7.  These country-specific numbers can and do fluctuate due to investigations resulting in changed locations of loss.  The League seeks the fullest possible accounting for those still missing, and repatriation of all recoverable remains.

NEW DPAA DIRECTOR NAMED & NOW MOVING FORWARD!  LTG (ret) Mike Linnington, USA, the new permanent Director, Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA), was named just before the League’s 46th Annual Meeting.  While always cautious to not overstate support for people named to positions of responsibility in the POW/MIA accounting mission, it is no overstatement to recognize his outstanding, varied background that is explained more fully in the upcoming League Newsletter.

Important now are the several steps he has already taken that clearly reveal he is moving energetically, though thoughtfully, to follow directives issued by former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel to “completely reorganize” the POW/MIA accounting community.  While structural change is always rife with turmoil and uncertainty, as the League has experienced repeatedly, Mr. Linnington is moving out smartly.  His restructure plans dramatically move the mission forward and, importantly, adhere to Secretary Hagel’s directive to “build on the existing strengths” of the accounting community.  As a result, he is moving beyond the recommendations he received from Vice Admiral Michael Franken, USN, whose vision for DPAA related more to a concept for production of “products” than to a viable plan to pursue accounting objectives for missing US personnel and their families.

Already confirmed is that former JPAC Detachments in Thailand, Vietnam and Laos will continue to be Detachments 1, 2 and 3, respectively, reporting to the incoming Deputy Director (an active-duty Army Brigadier General) who will likely be announced next week.   The long-serving, indispensable civilian specialists in the Detachments are expected to be extended.  The small contingent of personnel deployed to support operations in Europe will also continue to be a Liaison Office, possibly reporting to a European Regional Director.  The placement in the new structure of the Joint Commission Support Directorate (JCSD) is not yet known, but has unique status within DPAA due to also supporting the work of the US-Russia Joint Commission (USRJC) on POW/MIA Affairs.

There is also a very high priority being placed on the success of the Public Private Partnership (P3) initiative, viewing the broad areas in which potential partnerships (public/private, public/public, three party, etc.) could be formed as the way in which established processes and personnel can be freed up from WWII missions to focus on Vietnam War accounting.  This initiative offers significant opportunities to expand the overall accounting effort to produce results more rapidly through applying some contractors’ efforts to archival research, investigations and recoveries that pertain mostly to WWII, the Korean War (disinterment and IDs) and Cold War.

A symposium will be held in Hawaii, immediately following the “Blessing & Dedication Ceremony) on July 27th.  This symposium will provide an opportunity for the DPAA leadership, including all Directors and Deputies, to utilize the newly improved restructure and sort out the sub-structure, moving tasks as needed, but getting to a nearly finalized structure.  I look forward to seeing that product.

Chairman’s Comment:  Mike Linnington knows he has a very challenging road ahead to earn the trust of a dedicated and talented workforce, as well as add the kind of people he wants and can depend on to move DPAA forward.  He is moving NOW and already has learned far more than one would expect after such a very short time in the position.  He pledged at the League’s 46th Annual Meeting that he is in this for the long haul and knows it will take time, but asked for support, assistance and patience as he tackles the challenges. I’m convinced that he really IS the right guy and this IS the right time.

Right now truly IS the accounting mission’s last chance to move forward with the priority required, fully supported by State and DoD policy and resourced with funding and personnel required.  There will be NO further such opportunities, precisely the reason I’m determined to ensure that Mike Linnington gets all the support and assistance he needs from the many honest, caring and determined people working in the accounting community, and not be influenced by the self-serving, insecure people who are likely doing their best to remain in positions they should not hold.

We all should be grateful to Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Christine Wormuth for selecting a person like Mike Linnington who is self-confident, but not a  know-it-all, who isn’t afraid to be seen as learning, which he is doing in spades.  Yes, he has much to learn, and many self-serving people still surround him, so dangers persist, but many are trying in every possible way to help him gain solid, objective insights.

Finally, I attended LTG Linnington’s retirement on June 17th and had talked with him many times in his advisory role to Under Secretary Wormuth, VADM Franken and Maj Gen Kelly McKeague relating to the “complete reorganization” of the entire community.  As a result, I can attest to the esteem in which he is held by a broad cross-section of military and civilian personnel.  From the lowest level to those at the top, all seem to genuinely like and admire him.  Mr. Linnington was sworn in on Monday, June 22nd, as the civilian Senior Executive Service Level 3 Director of DPAA.  It is my hope, prayer and expectation that he will work to achieve the objectives we share, and do so with honor, integrity, humility, dedication, energy and determination.  That is all we can ask.  All we should expect is his very best effort, and we do, but he will also need our full support and that of all POW/MIA-related personnel, especially the demoralized former JPAC, DPMO and LSEL personnel now in DPAA.

Therefore, we, the Vietnam War families and our many concerned Veteran organizations, individual veterans and civilian supporters, ask all dedicated accounting community personnel – especially the experienced civilian core – to set aside the justifiable frustrations and obstacles you have endured for far too many years and focus on what is possible with our new DPAA Director.  I honestly believe DPAA truly can become the central accounting focus we all have sorely missed since 1992 – a cohesive, interagency US Government priority that will, with the support of all, achieve the fullest possible accounting. This longstanding, entirely reasonable League objective is defined as 1) the missing man returned alive; or 2) his remains recovered and identified; or 3) convincing evidence as to why neither is possible, in which case he will remain forever as unrecovered, but all information will be provided to the next-of-kin who will then have the certainty of knowing the US Government did its very best to bring him home to his family and our Nation.

46TH ANNUAL MEETING:  The June 24-27th meeting was the largest, most comprehensive and compelling annual meeting in years. The Hilton sold out, responses from senior leaders were positive, and official animosity toward the League seems to have disappeared in favor of a partnership not seen since 1992.  A full report will be in the upcoming League Newsletter.

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Remembering Herby on his Birthday

herby crosby 1969

Remembering Herby, my brother on what would have been his 68th birthday.

There are only a certain amount of photos I have of my brother. He’s been gone since 1970. He was 22 years old when his helicopter was lost over South Vietnam. The helicopter was never found, although, thankfully, his remains were. A long process that took 37 years to identify.

This particular photo could  easily have been one of the last photos taken of him. I say this because, well, with limited amount of photos, this one has clues to it’s age. The Firebird patch is sewn on the green fatigue shirt which indicates he was a Firebird (call name for gunship pilots) at this time so that would have been during the later half of his tour of duty in Vietnam (1969).

He looks a bit more mature than earlier photos of him in Vietnam. I think going to war would age anyone. The blue and white striped shirt that he’s wearing he also wore while on R&R in Hawaii, which was November 1969. I have photos of him in Hawaii wearing that same shirt. He looks happy and has that Herby Crosby smile on his face. I’m guessing this photo was most likely taken after his return from Hawaii.

Why? He looks relaxed. He’s happy in love.  He has that sly look of a man recently married (he married his girlfriend while on R&R in Hawaii, November 1969). I’m only guessing here, but I believe this photo was taken shortly before his death (January 1970). It most assuredly is one of the last photos taken of him.

It’s one of my favorite because of his smile.

I have limited photos of him because of his limited life. Yet, limited is hardly the word I’d use to describe his short time on this earth. He was blessed with good parents, a hardworking loving family, many friends, and adventures any kid would love to have growing up.

Herby had plenty of rewards during his life, but he also endured accidents and illness that almost killed him in earlier years. He was no saint. He was the American kid growing up in the 50 and 60s. He followed his heart to serve God and country, beginning as a boy scout excelling to Eagle Scout, then from Army Private to Army Captain in one of the most feared helicopter gunship companies in Vietnam, the 71st Assault Helicopter Company at Chu Lai.

I can only imagine how his life would have been had he survived Vietnam and returned home alive. He didn’t come home like I had hoped though, liked we all hoped. Yet, I thank the Divine Creator every day for bringing what remains were left of him home.

I cherish the limited photos of my brother. I look at them often. Precious memories. Remembering Herby on this his birthday. Love that smile.

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