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In a Hawaii laboratory, the remains of a fallen Korean War soldier were examined for the first time after more than 60 years. With dental, anthropologic, and DNA testing, the remains were identified as U.S. Army Cpl. Alton Christie, who went into battle with Company B, 1st Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 24th Infantry Division near Osan, South Korea, in July 1950 and never returned.


Cpl. Christie is one of at least five Florida natives who have been identified from World War II, Korean War, and Vietnam War battlefields since 2017 thanks to the efforts of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA).



U.S. Army Cpl. Alton Christie

U.S. Army Cpl. Alton Christie


The mission and the methods of DPAA are featured messages at an upcoming panel event, “How the DoD is Recovering American Military POW/MIAs and the Science Behind It,” on Feb. 24, presented by Team Orlando News and the Central Florida Tech Grove.


Event panelists include DPAA Principal Deputy Director, Fern Sumpter Winbush; Armed Forces Medical Examiner System Director/Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory, Dr. Timothy McMahon; Deputy Director DPAA Hawaii Lab, Dr. Debra Zinni; Recovery Team OIC, Marine Cpt. Gary Raymundo; and Recovery Team NCOIC, Army Master Sgt.  Zach Stiles.


According to Winbush, 81,000 servicemembers remain unaccounted for, and of those, 38,000 have been designated as recoverable, but the task is daunting and slow.


“Our mission is seen as humanitarian around the world…find and return our fallen comrades,” said Winbush.


Established in 2015 by then Defense Secretary, Chuck Hagel, DPAA enlists the help of partners, family members of the fallen, and innovative science to investigate, recover, and identify the remains of fallen service members.



“We have an obligation to honor the sacrifices of the generations that have come before us, especially the generations that lost their lives while securing the many liberties that we and our allies enjoy today,” said Winbush. “It is a sacred promise – not just to the families who have already lost loved ones, but to those who are continuing to serve today. We understand that as generations pass, it’s important that we keep not only the memories of those who were lost, but also to continue telling their stories to our nation and our allies.”


That’s why DPAA has adopted the POW/MIA motto as their guiding principle – You Are Not Forgotten.


Applying and broadening the use of these methods, the agency has been able to identify 200 servicemembers each year. As the innovation of new science and technologies arises, the agency hopes to find methods for recovering the 43,000 other servicemembers, who are currently beyond DPAA reach due to the unfortunate circumstances surrounding their deaths. Winbush said that high-speed aircraft crashes and deep-sea losses make the recovery of these fallen servicemembers nearly impossible using current technology, but offered that events like the one at Central Florida Tech Grove put the agency in contact with those who know about new technologies and methods that may help them in the future.


“We really want to take advantage of opportunities to engage the tech community,” said Winbush. “We have to be innovative and transformational – always trying to figure out new and better ways to make identifications.”


Register for “How the DoD is Recovering American Military POW/MIAs and the Science Behind It.”


To learn more about DPAA, visit https://www.dpaa.mil/.


Photos provided by DPAA.

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