U.S. veterans of the Vietnam War have been asked to return memorabilia they brought home to aid in the effort to account for North Vietnamese Army (NVA) and Viet Cong missing-in-action troops they fought against.
The request came from Veterans of Foreign Wars ahead of the 120-year-old organization's annual convention, which starts in Orlando, Florida, this weekend.
In a news release Monday, the VFW asked Vietnam veterans to go through their closets, attics and footlockers to dig out mementos from a war half-a century ago to aid Vietnam's effort to account for its own estimated 300,000 missing. However, the group noted, "no weapons please."
The VFW said that returning personal effects, such as photos taken from the wallet of a slain enemy, might also bring comfort to Vietnamese families.
In the release, VFW National Commander B.J. Lawrence said, "Even though it's been over a half-century for most Vietnam veterans, now is still a great time to help solidify our government's relationship with Vietnam, and to help make a difference in the lives of other families half a world away.
"This call to action is the result of numerous requests for assistance from Vietnamese veterans organizations," he said. "Being requested are personal effects, such as wallets, family photos and personal letters, as well as detailed battle maps or burial location -- anything that might help Vietnam to recover its own missing."
The return of war memorabilia could also encourage more cooperation from Vietnam in the search for more than 1,500 Americans still listed as missing-in-action from the Vietnam war, the VFW said.
Lawrence stressed that it is important for the VFW and military family organizations to make accounting for the missing -- from both sides -- a humanitarian mission that is above the politics of the moment.
The VFW said that Vietnam veterans willing to part with their war memorabilia can hand-deliver items to representatives from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, who will be attending the VFW's convention at the Orange County Convention Center starting this weekend.
The memorabilia will eventually be turned over to Vietnamese officials, according to the VFW. Vietnam veterans attending the convention can also share personal battlefield accounts with the DPAA representatives that might possibly aid in searches, it added.
The VFW said veterans unable to attend the convention could also mail their memorabilia to the VFW at: VFW Washington Office, Attention: Public Affairs, 200 Maryland Avenue NE, Washington, DC 20002.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.