Monday, May 30, 2011

Always Remember...Memorial Day 2011

Teri always does this post every Veteran's Day on her 'human' blog...but today we thought we would ask her to post it her on our cat blog today, cuz not many of our cat furrends follow Teri's blog (we keep her too busy with our blog for her to do much with hers!)...

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 on Memorial Day one year, 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 45 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. How sad for you all not to know if your uncle is dead or alive after all this time.
    Luv Hannah and Lucy xx xx

  2. Nor will I, now. I mean that seriously. I read every word with interest and sadness for him and for his family.

    A firring and to borrow a word from your post, evocative post, Teri.

  3. Very sad post I'm deeply sorry.

  4. What a lovely loving and poignant tribute to Teri's beautiful uncle. May he always be honoured and remembered. Have a peaceful Memorial Day, take care

  5. Teri, my heart goes out to you and your family, and I hope one day you find out the truth, and have answers.

  6. Oh Teri how utterly touching this post is today...our hearts also remember your dear Uncle today. I sit here on this fine peaceful day out on my patio drinking coffee watching the liberty of life that I have....given by God and maintained by those who gave their lives so it can be so....I wear the ID bracelet of my Uncle who died in Indochina before it was called Viet is polished clean and bright and the date is 1952...and I remember...
    Love Karla and Miss Peach

  7. I feel sad but your uncle will be remembered forever.

  8. What a sad story, I'm at a loss for words, but sending kind thoughts to you on this day.

  9. How awful that no one in your uncle's family knows his fate. The not-knowing about so many soldiers is, I think, one of the worst tragedies of that war. I hope that the mystery behind them all will one day be solved.

  10. I have a school friend who was a couple years older than me on that wall. Norman Bettis was such a sweet nice guy and loved life. Great blog and so sad the not knowing.

  11. Dreadful business war. Dreadful not to know either for you and your family.

  12. ....... :'( thank you for sharing. i'm so sorry for what you and your family have had to go through....


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