Army employee helps ensure MIAs 'not forgotten'
May 18, 2009
By Paul Boyce
FORT MCPHERSON, Ga. (May 15, 2009) -- An Army civilian employee here recently hosted the co-author of a biography about the woman his family befriended more than 40 years ago while she worked to gain national recognition for prisoners of war.
Evelyn Fowler Grubb championed the cause of POWs after her Air Force pilot husband was shot down and captured in North Vietnam in 1966. Her book discusses the importance of strong military families supporting each other in times of need and war.
Army employee and former Soldier Bruce R. Carlson and his family met Grubb in the early 1970s while assigned at Fort Lee, Va.
Carlson and his wife, Sharon, took care of Grubb's four boys while the Air Force wife worked tirelessly to find out more about her missing husband, Capt. Wilmer Newlin "Newk" Grubb. She initially received limited information from the U.S. government after his disappearance and began working with other military wives facing similar situations.
These military families formed groups that eventually became the National League of POW/MIA Families.
As its national coordinator in Washington in 1971 and 1972, Grubb even played a part in creating the league's distinctive "You Are Not Forgotten" black-and-white flag now flying at nearly every Army post and headquarters worldwide -- to include in front of U.S. Army Forces Command Headquarters near Atlanta, Ga., where Carlson now works.
Although suffering from cancer, Grubb began work in recent years on an inspirational book about the POW/MIA accountability movement with author and journalist Carol Jose. Grubb died from breast cancer Dec. 28, 2005, but the book efforts continued. Like her POW/MIA message of remembrance and appreciation, Grubb never forgot the kindness of the Carlson family.
"Just two weeks prior to her death, she sent my wife and I a draft copy of the biography book with a special note that we were much a part of her life and she wanted to ensure we saw it before she passed away," Carlson said recently. "It arrived on Christmas Eve 2005. Needless to say, it was a very special Christmas gift."
The book, "You Are Not Forgotten: A Family's Quest for Truth and the Founding of the National League of Families," tells how Grubb managed her life as a parent of four newly fatherless children while working to gain recognition and resolution for those held prisoner or missing in Vietnam.
While raising her four sons alone, Grubb met with government officials at the highest levels in the United States, including Henry Kissinger and Richard Nixon, on behalf of POWs.
"After eight long and traumatic years of waiting and hoping, Evelyn and her family were officially notified that her beloved Newk had perished in captivity from unsubstantiated causes soon after his capture," according to Vandamere Press.
"Sadly, not many Americans cared one way or another about what happened in faraway Southeast Asia," Grubb said when her husband's remains ultimately were disinterred from a mound of dirt that served as his grave in North Vietnam and were buried in Arlington National Cemetery in 1974.
The Carlson family was one Army Family who did care 40 years ago as well as today, so they hosted the book's co-author Carol Jose while she visited Atlanta this year in mid-May.
Jose, a Melbourne Beach, Fla., journalist and former Florida Today newspaper columnist, continues to discuss Grubb's personal struggle to find out what happened to her husband during the Vietnam War and Grubb's teamwork on behalf of the missing in action and prisoners of war.
"I speak about what these families accomplished," Jose told her old newspaper in an interview last year. "These were all housewives. Evelyn took on the world. She interacted with the highest people in government ... with the president."
Part testament to the tenacity of military families, the Washington Post noted Grubb's national and international cause. "She presented a human rights petition to the United Nations, calling for humane treatment of POWs and adherence the Geneva Conventions governing the treatment of prisoners of war, according to a January 2006 piece.
"She spoke with government officials in several European countries and to the governing body of the International Red Cross in Switzerland, advocating the release of prisoners."
There are now 1,741 American personnel listed by the Defense Department's POW/MIA Office as missing and unaccounted for from the Vietnam War, as of April 2009. The number of U.S. personnel accounted for since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is 841.
About 90 percent of the 1,741 still missing were lost in Vietnam or areas of Laos and Cambodia under Vietnam's wartime control, according to the National League of Families Web site.
As in past years, Sept. 18, 2009, likely will be proclaimed by President Barack Obama as National POW/MIA Recognition Day. All or most of the 50 states also proclaim POW/MIA Recognition Day in conjunction with the national effort.
(Paul Boyce serves with FORSCOM Public Affairs.)