Until They Are Home: Pam Cain

As an MIA daughter, National POW/MIA Recognition Day has special significance: it is a day that I take more time to focus on what my father and others like him gave to their country, what our country still needs to do for them, and what else I can do to get answers for my family as well as the 1,650+ still missing and accounted for from the Vietnam War. There are thousands more from World War II, Korea and the Cold War who remain on foreign soil and my heart goes out to their families, particularly on this day. It is also a time to honor and thank the heroes who were taken prisoner, those who survived years of torture and returned home to ecstatic families but to a nation that did not greet them or other veterans with the welcome they deserved. The Vietnam War was not only unpopular but it divided our nation. The military was resented, even hated, ridiculed and treated with disrespect–to put it mildly.

Not a day goes by that I don’t think of Dad and try to do whatever I can to keep the issue in front of our government. Many friends and even some relatives can’t understand why it is so important to get Dad home, achieve accountability and resolve his and others’ cases. I’ll try to explain.

My dad was shot down over Laos in 1966. We were living in the D.C. area and I was almost 13 years old. We received little information and for years we lived in isolation, not knowing dad’s fate but trusting that our government was doing everything it could to find him and bring him home. Answers were rare. We lived our lives on a roller coaster of not knowing and had little communication with other families who were experiencing the same loss, anguish and frustration.

At some point along the way, I realized that it was time for me to step up and be more proactive – what was being done?  Who was doing it?  Why wasn’t news more forthcoming? That’s when I learned about the National League of POW/MIA Families, became active in the organization and then realized how many agencies and individuals were working on the issue. I also learned how politicized the issue had become, how much money it took to do investigations to find our loved ones and how much work still needed to be done. Though my dad has been missing for 46+ years, my family was lucky enough to receive some decisive news, confirming his death, about 2 years ago–but it may still take up to 3 more years to confirm he’s buried where he’s believed to be, excavate and bring him home. It is so hard to accept that and yet I now know that other families have endured that wait time and more.

A devoted and heroic mother and a deep faith has sustained me over the years. My resolve is stronger than ever and is due, in part, to the many in government, in veterans groups and other POW/MIA organizations along with other MIA family members I’ve come to know–and consider my “family.” When I visit the “Wall” and witness how today’s military is viewed and honored, I am keenly aware that times have changed–thankfully. For those who fight for their country, we owe them gratitude and honor for doing their part to protect our freedoms. Bringing home my dad and giving him that honor is the right thing to do–and I will never give up.

My dad was a career Air Force officer who loved his country, loved flying and loved his family. I wish, so often, that those in my life could have met him. And I am so proud of him, what he accomplished and what he stood for. On this day, as every day, I pray for answers, for his return and the peace of knowing I’ve done everything I could to get him home.

Pam Cain is the daughter of Col Oscar Mauterer, MIA Laos, 2/15/66. She is also a board member of the National League of POW/MIA Families.