Linda Ward
Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 913
117 Black Oak Dr.
Branson, MO   65616

BRANSON, Mo. – Like the tick of a clock’s second hand, the cadence of time slipping away can be heard at the Vietnam POW/MIAs Memorial Wall of the United States, which has found a new home in Branson, Mo.

Eerily similar to the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., the Vietnam POW/MIAs Memorial Wall of the United States has a purpose different from the national monument. While Washington’s memorial remembers those who were killed in action, this wall counts those who have never been found. It is a stark reminder that thousands have not returned, which rekindles the question, “What if one man remains and has grown old as a POW still waiting for his country to come to his rescue?”

Sponsored by Branson’s Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) Chapter 913, the Vietnam POW/MIAs Memorial Wall is now at home in the Veterans Walk of Fame at the Branson Mall, joining the vintage military posters lining the hallway. The posters are a colorful contrast to the 10 dark panels etched with 2,560 names colored only by a scattering of red, green and white stars.

White stars mark the POW/MIAs whose remains have been returned – only 17 percent of those listed. Green stars are beside 11 percent of the names – POW/MIAs who might have survived captivity. Red stars, almost 10 percent, denote those who fought in the secret wars in Laos.

Built in 2000, the wall is the work of Leo Voss of Minnesota, a Marine who served in Vietnam. His commitment and dedication developed through his experiences as a leader of the Southwest Minnesota POW/MIA Color Guard and through giving speeches, talking about the thousands of Americans left behind at the end of the wars waged in Vietnam and Korea.

In speaking, the numbers “go right over peoples’ heads…When you see the names – that touches peoples’ hearts,” Voss said.

The names are a visual, quiet reminder that those listed not only are someone’s husband, father, grandfather and son, but also people at the center of a controversy surrounding the fate of the POWs left in Vietnam and charges of a cover-up.

“There are significances in all of those names. Each name deserves an accounting,” said President of VVA Chapter 913 Bill Groninger, who served in the Air Force. “When I flew missions over North Vietnam, I always believed that if I went down someone would find me. Hope was all we had. In looking at these names, it has turned out that wasn’t true. A family and a story are behind each name.”

One of those stories is Richard R. Kane who was reported missing in action in 1967 and reportedly seen in a chain gang southwest of Hanoi in 1983. With no star beside his name on the wall, aviator Major Kane, United States Marines, was just 24 when he was listed as missing in action on Sept. 12, 1967, after his plane was shot down over South Vietnam. In an oft-told story, Kane was reported to have been spotted in a chain gang with other Americans by a Greek merchant seaman. The seaman was a crew member aboard a Greek ship that reportedly docked in Haiphong in August of 1983. While sightseeing ashore southwest of Hanoi, the seaman came upon the chain gang. Kane shouted his name and military rank to the merchant seaman before guards intervened and the frightened seaman ran away.

The United States of America’s Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) assigned the report as case #3055 and, following an investigation, declared it a fabrication based in large part on the ship’s owner denying that the ship was docked in Haiphong although the ship was in the region at that time. Experts and researchers who disagree with the pronouncement argue that the ship’s owners would certainly deny being docked in Haiphong because that would have been a violation of the U.S. trade embargo against Vietnam. In 1983, U.S. law barred any loans, credits or grants to any country that allowed its ships to transport cargo to Vietnam.

Haiphong also is part of New Orleans’ Lt. Col. Peter Serex’s story. Serex, who has a green star beside his name on the wall, was 40 years old when he and other Air Force crew members were shot down near the DMZ. The most recent report on his case centers on photos taken in 1992 by an American satellite that showed a field outside a prison camp near Haiphong. The letters SEREX appeared to be carved into the ground. Below those large letters were more large letters and numbers that appeared to be valid distress codes. Again experts and researchers disagree. Some argue that the symbols are irregularities in the photographs; others claim the symbols are very clear and were camouflaged on purpose.

In recent years Serex’s family members viewed the photographs and requested their own experts examine them. No reports have been found indicating that an examination has happened to the family’s satisfaction.

In 1993, just a year after the controversial Serex photos were taken, New York’s Rep. Peter T. King introduced H.R. 111 establishing a select committee on POW and MIA affairs.
“Over 88,000 American military personnel are still unaccounted for from the wars and military conflicts in the 20th and 21st centuries. To this day, many families still do not know the fate of their loved ones who went to combat for our nation,” Rep. King wrote in a letter in April of 2008 to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, asking for her support.

Up until last year every time King reintroduced the bill, the bill had few co-sponsors (in 2001 it had eight.) Last year the bill was updated to include the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and 54 members of Congress signed on as original co-sponsors. According to the National Alliance of Families, it now has 126 co-sponsors. The bill was referred to the House Committee on Rules on Feb. 3.

“In an exceptional way, the current wars may help draw attention to the past wars,” said Groninger, who helped Voss find the permanent home for his wall. “We hope the placement of the wall will encourage the public to pressure the government to release more information. That is the same goal of H.R. 111. It has the support of not only Branson VVA, but also the American Legion, the Military Order of the Purple Heart, Rolling Thunder, National Alliance of Families and the Korea Cold-War Families of the Missing, World War II Families for Return of the Missing, VietNow and others.

King wrote in his letter to Pelosi, “A House Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs would allow us to develop broader and more thorough records on our missing armed forces personnel. It will lead to information that will resolve many unanswered questions. This is the very least we owe these patriotic and courageous Americans.”

Supporters of H.R. 111 cite new information since the Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA published a final report in January of 1993. The new information includes two memos by a former DIA analyst who was an investigator on that committee. The memos, discovered in 2005 and 2006, noted inconsistencies in Vietnamese reports that some 19 servicemen listed as dead were officially acknowledged as “survived into captivity” and “Today, Defense Department files contain evidence that at least 59 Americans were – or may have been taken prisoner and their precise fate is still unclear. This includes the 29-30 not officially acknowledged by Vietnam in 1973. This represents the minimum number of possible live POWs today…U.S. field teams in Vietnam, since 1989 have uncovered evidence that more Americans were in fact taken captive than officially recorded.”

The fate of H.R. 111 rests in the hands of Pelosi and to date, she has not responded to any requests for action and support of the bill, a Washington source said. No comment came from Pelosi’s office following repeated requests by a spokesperson for the Branson VVA.

“Unfortunately, many feel powerless to make a difference. It is out of sight – out of mind. I was there (in Vietnam) and I have been complacent. Today Major Kane would be 66. It is important that men like him not be forgotten. Get involved. Call your representative about H.R. 111. Call Nancy Pelosi’s office and ask that she bring this bill to a vote,” Groninger said.

In the meantime, the Branson VVA will be hosting a dedication the Vietnam POW/MIAs Memorial Wall of the United States on July 4 at 10 a.m. at the Branson Mall. The wall’s creator, Leo Voss will be attending.

Groninger said, “Our group is helping update the list of names on the wall to keep it current. The chapter has also planned a book in memory of those on the wall and will attempt to locate information on all listed. We plan to enlist the assistance of students from Hollister (Mo.) High School with the book project. As the Memorial Wall’s creator, Leo Voss has completed the research on those from his home state of Minnesota. We want to help him with the rest. Another way the public can be involved is by supporting this project. The Branson VVA may be contacted at 417-230-6446.

“Each individual name counts. The wall’s last panel sums up the philosophy of those involved in this project, ‘We demand their release, all information and documentation, the return of all remains and the truth.’ The first panel sums up our promise, ‘Our American POW/MIA – you are not forgotten.’”

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logo Roger Frieze
Ozark Mountain Bank
PO Box 130
Branson, MO   65615

Pencils, pens, rulers, crayons and some glue can make a difference in a child’s life. And one local bank is helping to make that difference.

From now through August 7th, Ozark Mountain Bank is collecting new school supplies. Supplies such as pencils, glue and paper can be dropped off at any Ozark Mountain Bank location during normal business hours. If someone prefers to make a cash donation, there is the opportunity for that as well. The monetary donations will be used to purchase backpack kits. The kits will give each child the basic supplies they need all with one backpack which they often need as well. In the past, new school supplies have had a very meaningful impact.

“Every child deserves to start the school year with new school supplies,” said Kandy Loehr, Taney County OACAC Supervisor. “It sets each child up for a successful year and we appreciate everyone who takes the time to contribute to this very worthwhile event.”

The supplies will be given to Ozarks Area Community Action Corporation (OACAC), Christian Action Ministries, The Salvation Army and Gift of Hope for distribution at their upcoming School Readiness Fair on July 29th. Any supplies given after that will be donated to the schools.

“Going back to school can be a stressful time for some families and I know there is an even greater need this year,” Ozark Mountain Bank President and CEO C. Craig Richards said. “We are glad that we can help out by collecting school supplies but the real credit goes to the four organizations that are working together to assist area families in need.”

Ozark Mountain Bank lobby locations include the Main Bank in downtown Branson, Cedar Ridge located next to Country Mart on Hwy. 248, Branson West which is inside the Wal-Mart Supercenter and the Hollister facility at the corner of the Highway 65 interchange.

Anyone who has questions can call the OACAC Neighborhood Center at (417) 239-1882 or Ozark Mountain Bank at (417) 334-4125.


Disclaimer: is a service for the distribution of press releases, news and events. does not verify the validity or accuracy of the contents of the news that it distributes. Users are responsible for the contents of the press releases they submit to and the distribution via our service does not imply endorsement. takes no responsibility and holds no liabilities for information distributed.