In high school Mr Lockwood gave us an assignment to interview a person who knew someone who died in The Vietnam War and write a short biography of that person. Later that year our senior class went to Washington DC and each of us made a rubbing on the wall of our person’s name. Two years later I was sitting at the USAF Academy answering phones on a quiet Friday night thinking about my person, Captain Roger D. Helwig and remembered he was from Colorado Springs.
So I started cold calling to find a relative of his and the first person who answered was Roger’s mom!! I met her and Roger’s dad and gave them the report I had written on their son. Before I graduated I gave them my Academy senior photo and a rubbing of Roger’s name from the wall with the verse below “You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, known and read by everyone. You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.”
Nine years later as an Air Force pilot, I would find myself on a mission to the same province where Roger was shot down in Laos to insert a team who would search for the remains of our country’s unaccounted for military servicemen.
And now I work for DPAA, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. The same organization that puts out those teams to search for our nation’s missing–over 83 thousand since WWII, and bring them home.
This past week I was visiting one of our forensic labs and came across box REFNO 1488. Roger Helwig’s evidence box!! We are still searching for him. And this week I arranged to have the honor of escorting his remains home and back to his family should we find him.
What an emotional week!! Over half my life ago one unique high school assignment changed my life and that of a family who still grieved the loss of their son. Roger is not forgotten. I am his letter. And we are still searching for him and I am so honored to be doing the work of this agency.