The Journal Register (Medina, NY)

Local News

November 14, 2012

Forensics used to honor nation's commitment

Medina Journal-Register — MEDINA — Efforts to search for, recover and repatriate the remains of U.S. servicemen whose bodies are unaccounted for from the battlefields of war was a difficult, but fulfilling, experience for the pair of Medina residents who served in the Central Identification Laboratory.

Medina native Dr. Ann Webster Bunch, a certified forensic anthropologist, and her husband, retired Army Lt. Col. Steven Bunch, both served for eight years in a unit now known as the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command. The command’s mission is to search for the more than 83,000 Americans still missing from conflicts dating back to World War II.

“It’s a problem that we haven’t accounted for all of our war dead,” Bunch said Monday during a Veterans Day presentation at GCC Medina. “As President Reagan said about Vietnam ... the end to America’s involvement (in the war) cannot come before we’ve achieved the fullest possible accounting of our soldiers.”

In their roles within CIL, Bunch, who served as the Officer in Charge for his 12-person team; and Webster Bunch, who served as her team’s cilian anthropologist, each went on more than a dozen missions to locations in Asia and the Pacific.

“It’s a partnership — research that serves the nation using forensic recovery for identification,” Webster Bunch said.

Bunch highlighted a 1999 mission to the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, a nation still technically at war with the United States, in his presentation. He described the effort to locate the remains of 457 members of the 23rd Infantry Regiment killed during the fighting retreat that occurred during the Battle of the Ch’ongh’on River, as a “chessmatch” with the North Koreans.

“There’s still a friction going on at the human level,” said Bunch, referencing both the nine days his group was held by the DRPK — another day in captivity would have made them officially prisoners of war — at the end of the trip; and a fight that ensued after the Americans replaced a tape of dogs barking Christmas carols with Metallica as the music on their bus.

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