Thursday, November 11, 2010

Never Forget...Veteran's Day 2010

When I was 14 years old, my favorite uncle was shot down in Vietnam, and the missing him is as strong today as it was when I was a child.

He will always be young in my mind, playing the trombone, driving a turquoise and cream Chevrolet Bel Air and taller than any adult I had ever seen. He left behind his wife (my favorite aunt) and a son and daughter, too.

When I moved from Oregon to Virginia, one of the first things I wanted to do was visit the Vietnam Memorial and find his name and put a picture of the car he had, as I had no photos of him. The memorial is the most moving place to be, and my favorite, if that is the right word, of all the monuments I have visited, because it is so, somber, that feeling of going underground. But also such a wonderful tribute to those who never made it back to their homes, their families, their lives ahead of them...

I had never googled his name before, but I did today and this is what I found...

Name: Ralph Carol Balcom, Jr.
Rank/Branch: O3/US Air Force
Date of Birth: 24 December 1933
Home City of Record: Seattle WA
Date of Loss: 15 May 1966
Country of Loss: North Vietnam (see text)
Loss Coordinates: 171200N 1064000E (XE100100)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Category: 1
Aircraft/Vehicle/Ground: F105D
Other Personnel In Incident: None Missing

Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 March 1991 from one or more of the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews. Updated by the P.O.W. NETWORK 1998.

SYNOPSIS: Ralph Balcom Jr. was shot down over North Vietnam about 20 miles north of the Demilitarized Zone in Quang Binh Province. A radio signal indicated that Major Balcom had parachuted to the ground, but because of zero visibility at the time, search planes were not able to locate and rescue him.

Two months later a propaganda film appeared with a man Ralph's parents immediately recognized as their son being paraded down the streets of Hanoi. The U.S. Government later identified the man as a returned POW Kyle Berg, also from the state of Washington.

In November 1973, the Air Force discovered that Joint Casualty Resolution Center (JCRC) in Nakhon Phanom was carrying Balcom as a Prisoner of War while Defense Intelligence Agency carried him as Missing In Action. The Air Force directed JCRC to delete any reference pertaining to POW status in Balcom's files. Balcom's status was changed from Prisoner of War to Missing in Action, although analysts say today that JCRC records were the most accurate and complete because of their close proximity to the region.

JCRC also lists Balcom as being lost in Laos, not North Vietnam. The loss coordinates, 171200N 1064000E are in North Vietnam about 20 miles north of the DMZ. Grid coordinates XE100100 are located a few miles northwest of the Ban Karai Pass in Laos. It cannot be determined why there is a descrepancy in loss locations between agencies.

Today, over 44 years have passed since Ralph Balcom's last flight over Vietnam. His family is still not sure whether he is alive or dead. Over 10,000 reports of Americans still held captive have been received by the U.S. Isn't it time we brought these men home?

Ralph C. Balcom was promoted to the rank of Colonel during the period he was maintained a Prisoner of War and Missing in Action.

To my dear uncle...I will never forget.


  1. We honor all who have served. What a moving story and it tells that there are still many families out there who wonder whatever happened to their loved ones.

  2. I am so sorry for your uncle and his family. This type of war casualty is even more tragic and sad than the deaths that have been accounted for. Thank you for sharing his story with us. We will remember.

  3. What an ordeal he went through! I am so sorry that he was never brought home to you and your family. Thank you for sharing his story.

    They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old:
    Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
    At the going down of the sun and in the morning
    We will remember them.

  4. I have tears in my eyes. I have had family members who have served, but we were very lucky that they all came home.

  5. This seems very appropriate. Its from my facebook. "A Veteran is someone who at one point in their life wrote a blank check... payable to the United States of America....for an amount up to (and including) their LIFE. My family thanks you for your service and continued fight for our freedom. What you have takes even more than courage, valor, and commitment. It takes heart. 100% heart. God Bless you and especially those that made the ultimate sacrifice. Thank You"

  6. Oh MissieCurlieSwirlieTeri, (((hugs)))) I wish your uncle could come home. This is a sad story and i am so sorry that your favorite uncle Ralph did not come home. I am sure your heart was newly broken to see his name there.. it makes it real.
    I will bonk for your uncle today

    We are so fortunate to have such brave and selfless individuals that gave their dedication for our country.

    bonks and bronks

  7. Beautiful tribute Teri. With tears for you and his family we celebrate life by remembering those who gave their 'Last full measure of devotion to their Country.

  8. That was a most moving and sad story of your Uncle. We purr for him and honour him this Remembrance Day.
    Hugs to you.

    Purrs Mickey, Georgia & Tillie

  9. And to all the other people so lovingly etched on that wall. Thanks be to your dear uncle.

  10. You've got to wonder what happened to all those MIA from every war. Poor people, and poor family left behind too.

  11. We offer purrs of healing. To yours and all...


  12. You've honored them well with your post my friend, it's very moving.

  13. Oh Teri, I missed this and I am so sorry that I did.

    I'm glad you found his name on the Wall. What a terrible ordeal and tiume he had to go through and my heart is sad at the thought.

    This was a loving tribute to a dear Uncle who will always be held tenderly and always in your heart.


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