Remembering our New Jersey Vietnam War POWs & MIAs
Every other month, the NEW JERSEY FREE PRESS newspaper will feature the story of each Vietnam War POW MIA still unaccounted for who called New Jersey their home.
As of November 1, 2020 – that number stands at 40.
Along the way, we will interview family members of the missing, when we can locate them, and their comrades in arms, if they are still living.
We will tell each Hero’s story, about how they went missing, why, where, and what we can do to remind our Nation’s government that we want them returned home.
Each missing New Jersey American Hero will have a dedicated webpage on our site, where we will share the information we have available.
To read each Patriot’s page, “hover” your cursor over this page’s tab above and click by name.
If you are a family member or friend of one of our 40 New Jersey MIAs/POWs from the Vietnam war and would like to share information, please contact us at Editor@NJFreePress.Com or by calling 856 243 2499.
HOW YOU CAN HELP
The National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia, also known legally as the National League of POW/MIA Families, was incorporated in the District of Columbia on May 28, 1970. Members include the wives, children, parents, siblings and other close blood and legal relatives of Americans who were or are listed as Prisoners of War (POW), Missing in Action (MIA), Killed in Action/Body not Recovered (KIA/BNR) and returned American Vietnam War POWs. The League’s sole mission is to obtain the release of all prisoners, obtain the fullest possible accounting for the missing, and secure the repatriation of all recoverable remains of those who died serving our nation during the Vietnam War.
American public support is critical to accomplish their mission.
There are a number of things you can do to help.
1. STAY INFORMED by visiting the League’s website at pow-miafamilies.org, their Facebook at facebook.com/powmiafamilies/, and their Twitter site, at twitter.com/POWMIAFamilies
2. SUPPORT THE ORGANIZATION’S WORK by becoming a member. For as little as $25 a year, you can help make there is a constant presence in Washington, D.C. where “buttons can be pushed” to make the wheels of government churn towards securing a full accounting of our Nation’s missing heroes. Those charged with this task are the people who work for the Defense POW / MIA Accounting Agency. Their Facebook is facebook.com/dodpaa/
3. CALL AND WRITE YOUR FEDERAL REPRESENTATIVES, telling them that you demand their real and regular help in making the government work for those still missing and their families’. After the 2020 election results are finalized, we will provide the names, physical and email addresses, and telephone numbers of all Federal representatives serving the citizens of New Jersey so you can see where pressure needs to be applied.
4. PUSH ALL LOCAL MEDIA (including newspapers like ours) to run stories – and run stories again – to make sure the names, faces and fates of those still missing do not fade from public attention.
Never Forget – Never Forgotten
Tom Engkilterra, Northeast Regional Coordinator
National League of POW/MIA Families
JULY 2020 – July 4th is our Nation’s Independence Day and yet most of our fellow citizens think of fireworks rather than the war that we fought against the King of England and his troops who were sent here to the colonies to enforce the King’s will upon us. Many on both sides gave their lives but from that Revolutionary War for Independence we became our own nation with our own Constitution and Bill of Rights and we exist still today as the “Great Experiment”: The United States of America. Someone with more intelligence than I once wrote, “The tree of Freedom is watered with the blood of Patriots”.
Traditionally there are sales at retail stores, Bar-B-Qs in the backyard and many citizens hang their American Flag in front of their houses. Like Memorial Day and Veteran’s Day, too many of our citizens don’t pause and remember what those holidays really mean to us today and our American Heritage or to the families whose relatives and friends are the reason for those holidays. Likewise, America’s Prisoners of War and Missing in Action who remain “America’s Unaccounted for Veterans”.
Wars sometimes separate a country instead of uniting it. Not since WWII have we seen an all-out citizen support pitching in for the war effort. We did see to a large degree citizens gathering to support our citizens who were deployed to the Gulf War and likewise, the battles we fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The impact of war lingers so long after the war itself ends. Take the Vietnam War for example. Just over 58,000 Americans lost their lives fighting to defend the South Vietnamese people against domination by Communist North Vietnam, most in their very early 20’s. There are still 1,587 unaccounted for, 40 of them from the Garden State of New Jersey.
There is a comfort, advocacy and representation nationwide for POW/MIA Families in the form of the National League of POW/MIA Families. The League became a non-profit, tax-exempt organization on May 28, 1970 and was the first of it’s kind in America. Today the League is the oldest of it’s kind in our nation’s history and is known as the preeminent authority on America’s Prisoners of War and Missing in Action. Since their creation, the League has inspired WWII, Korean War and Cold War Families and provided guidance and suggestions on how to organize to get results. The League has been contacted by individual families of those who were missing or prisoners from the Gulf War and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan to provide moral support and direction in navigating the government to get answers.
Each year the League mourns the passing of their members who never got an answer while they were alive. Two POW/MIA Mothers in their 100 years of life passed away within a year of each other last year as well as MIA Brothers and Sisters and Widows.
This Independence Day, take a moment to reflect upon the meaning and life lost to even have a 4th of July and those who watered the Tree of Freedom. For me, everyday is Independence Day, Memorial Day and Veterans Day: think of their families left behind without any sense of a determination or closure and the daily struggle and hope that today they might get an answer. Pause for a moment and think of those amongst us who bear the burden and visible or invisible scars of war so that we may stay free and protected.
America Raised Them, America Sent Them
and America Wants Them Back.
Tom Engkilterra was born at the U.S. Army Hospital in Ft. Benning, Georgia in 1953 where his father was stationed as a soldier during the Korean War. The POW/MIA Issue found Tom in May of 1982 while visiting Washington, D.C. for the first time. In July of that year he attended his first Annual Meeting of the National League of POW/MIA Families and found his calling in life and has remained his passion for 36 years.
Tom served as a Concerned Citizen volunteer for nearly two years and was appointed New Jersey State Coordinator by the League’s then Executive Director, Ann Mills Griffiths.
In 1984 at the request of a Bronx, New York Jewish War Veterans Post that Tom had worked with and visited numerous times, and many other areas in New York on the POW/MIA Issue, he was appointed to Coordinate both New Jersey and New York.
In 1986 Tom was appointed Regional Coordinator for the National League of POW/MIA Families. Tom has held Regional Coordinator positions on both West and East Coasts since that time. Tom currently serves as Northeast Regional Coordinator since 2011.
Tom lives in Toms River, New Jersey with his wife Nancy who is the League’s New Jersey State Coordinator.
Tom is not a veteran and is not a POW/MIA Family Member. Tom is an American.