“Leave no man behind” is an axiom that speaks directly to the loyalty and brotherhood of all men at arms. It’s included in the Army Ranger’s Creed, to “never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy,” and if you ask the Marines, they haven’t left a man behind since Lord Nelson was preserved in a barrel of rum after Trafalgar. The reality, however, is a bit less noble. In fact, burial in-place was actually the norm up until the Korean War. It’s unfortunate, but in many wars past we have left some of our troops behind.
In the late 1940s, Graves Registration Service (now Mortuary Affairs) began going back out to the locations where on-the-spot burials were performed in order to dress up the graves and correctly document those buried there, but it wasn’t until the early 1970s that a pro-active effort was made to go out and locate the soldiers who were missing.
The Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO) estimates that more than 83,000 troops are still missing from World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam, and the Cold War combined. Of these, 43,000 are considered “recoverable” and efforts are underway through the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) to bring them home.
Because of the sheer volume of the unaccounted for, however, many, like Ken Moore, believe that more can be done. That is why he started the non-profit organization called MIA Charities, Inc., affectionately known as "Moore’s Marauders." Moore's cadre of the “best and brightest” patriots are at the tip of the spear, helping to speed the recovery of American heroes from their resting places abroad.
“We will use any means necessary to find, identify, and return to their families the remains of American service men who died unaccounted for on foreign soil in service of our country,” declares Moore on the MIA Charities website.
Locating the remains is the first step in the recovery process, and according to Moore, that's what the Marauders do best. Once remains have been located, the families are notified and a report is filed with the proper authorities. MIA Charities, Inc. receives no government funding. They rely solely on private contributions to help them fulfill the "no man left behind" promise.
Amongst its ranks are forensic archeologists/anthropologists, internationally certified crash scene investigators, physicians, teams of underwater recovery experts, pilots (both rotary and fixed wing), expert mountain climbers, spelunkers, researchers, information technology experts, certified explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) experts, several Ph.D historians, and senior police officials with a combined half century of major case investigatory experience.
“The Marauders are an all volunteer unit of highly skilled, highly motivated professionals from every corner of the world and from every walk of life,” said Moore, “and our mission won’t be fulfilled until the remains of every one of the 43,000 recoverable service members are located, identified, and brought home.”
Currently, MIA Charities, Inc. is funding recon and expeditionary missions throughout Europe, Asia, and the Pacific to help locate lost American and foreign service members, supplying much needed information to organizations like the Department of Defense, JPAC, and the Japanese Department of Health and Labor in their continued efforts.
Marauder Joel Rex is a retired Navy EOD Deep Sea Diver and a graduate of the Army Airborne School. The military has been his family for 23 years.
“I am a Marauder because everyone needs to come home to rest,” said Rex. “Families need peace of mind that their loved ones have not been forgotten. I want to bring my family home.”
Recon team leader Gerry Flowers believes that at a higher level, the Marauders raison d'etre offers one the opportunity to transcend mere self-interest and contribute to something significant and worthwhile.
“We are recovering the fallen, and hopefully bringing closure to their families and nation,” said the former Marine sergeant. “The Marines pride themselves on never leaving a man behind, and to a certain extent, this mission is the fulfillment of that covenant.”
To learn more about MIA Charities, Inc., a.k.a Moore’s Marauders, click here.
Joseph Andrew Lee is a USO staff writer.