Keeping the Promise – POW/MIA

Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund
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Dear Supporter,

Major Thomas Reitmann is honored on Panel 3E, Row 119.
(Photo courtesy of Kim Lorigan and the St. Petersburg Times)

Today, in honor of National POW/MIA Recognition Day, I’d like to share this story.

Kim Lorigan was only 6 years old when her family got the news about her father.

Maybe he has amnesia. Maybe he’ll recover and mysteriously just show up one day.

She would sometimes entertain those thoughts, but she knew they really weren’t true.

Capt. Thomas E. Reitmann, USAF, had been shot down over North Vietnam while flying his F-105D Thunderchief on a bombing raid on December 1, 1965.

No parachute was seen by the other pilots on the mission, nor could they spot any trace of Reitmann or his aircraft. He was seven days shy of his 35th birthday.

His wife Carol had been out shopping. When she returned to her car, she saw a small group of people waiting for her, including a Chaplain.

She got into her car and locked the door without saying a word. Carol Reitmann Sumner, now 74, said, “I decided that if I didn’t unlock my door then they can’t tell me anything.” One of the men asked her to slide over so he could drive.

Suddenly a single mother with four children to raise alone, Carol had to move on. She and the kids moved to Hawaii, where she and Tom Reitmann had planned to retire.

Meanwhile the Air Force promoted Reitmann to major while he was still missing and before the war ended.

Fast forward 45 years to May 2011
Reitmann’s daughter, Kim, (retired from the U.S. Coast Guard), received a phone call out of the blue. Major Thomas Reitmann’s remains had been found and identified. And the Vietnamese government had turned over his remains.

Kim was numbed by the news. Over and over she asked, “Are you serious? Are you serious?

Carol Reitmann Sumner holds her husband’s photo in her arms.
(Photo courtesy of Honolulu Star-Advertiser)

She added, “I was walking in circles, crying.”

Reitmann was buried in Arlington National Cemetery on September 8, 2011, with full military honors. Seven of his friends and pilots who flew with him — along with his entire family — attended the funeral.

Carol Reitmann Sumner sent over 400 thank-you cards to all the staffers at the military command that locates and identifies MIAs.

Kim Lorigan captured the family’s feelings when she said, “This is a celebration. We are celebrating him coming home. We are finally able to give him the honors he is due and bury him on American soil.

Her father is home. The uncertainty is over.

Since late 1973, over 960 Americans have been accounted for from the Vietnam War. Their families — just like Reitmann’s family — finally have an end to the uncertainty. Their loved one is home.

Yet 1,683 Americans are still unaccounted for in Vietnam.

Please join me in honoring them by flying the flag today for National POW/MIA Recognition Day. Join me in a tribute to all our missing heroes.

No one is forgotten, today or any day. And our nation continues to work hard at keeping our promise to bring them all home: from Vietnam, WWII, Korea, and our ongoing conflicts.


Jan C. Scruggs
Founder and President

P.S.  It’s because of you and all our faithful, patriotic supporters that the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund is able to do so much to keep the memories of all those lost in Vietnam “alive.” If you’re so inclined, I invite you to honor all veterans of Vietnam with a gift to VVMF.

Established in 1979, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund is dedicated to preserving the legacy of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., and promoting healing and educating about the impact of the Vietnam War. Authorized by Congress, its most recent initiative is building The Education Center at The Wall, an underground facility near the Memorial that is designed to add faces to all the names on The Wall and tell their stories to future generations. Other Memorial Fund initiatives include educational programs for students and teachers, and a traveling Wall replica.