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|Cooksey recounts work to find MIAs, POWS|
For more than three decades, former U.S. Rep. John Cooksey of Monroe has tracked news about the nation's MIAs and POWs.
"It's a subject that is important to anyone who has ever worn a uniform," said Cooksey.
An ophthalmologist who has practiced medicine in Monroe since the 1970s, Cooksey served in the U.S. Air Force from 1967 to 1969 and in the Air Force Reserves until 1972. He left the Air Force as a Captain.
While in the Air Force in the late 1960s, Cooksey served in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War on a temporary duty assignment. He was a flight surgeon who flew missions in the region.
The former three-term congressman who served in the U.S. House from 1997-2003 was on hand in West Monroe Saturday night to deliver the keynote speech at the annual statewide meeting of the Military Officers Association of America.
During his remarks to the military officers association, Cooksey recounted a trip he made to Vietnam in 1999. He was a member of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee at the time.
While in Vietnam, Cooksey met with representatives from veterans' affairs organizations and the Vietnamese government to discuss matters related to the POWs and MIAs still unaccounted for in the Southeast Asian nation.
At that meeting, Cooksey said the American group learned of the fate of a pilot lost over Hanoi during the Vietnam War.
Air Force pilot Mike Walker and his aircraft were lost. For more than 30 years, no one knew what had happened to Walker and his plane.
"Within 30 minutes, they came in and said, 'After all these years, we know what happened,'" Cooksey said.
During the Vietnam War, Walker's F-4 jet had taken off for a night mission when it struck the top of a mountain. Just six months prior to Cooksey's visit in 1999, a child had found an identification plate from the ejection seat of Walker's plane.
"They took that to the authorities and, from that, they went looking for the crash site," Cooksey said.
Through that search, officials determined it was Walker's plane and that he was lost in the war.
Cooksey said it was important for families and loved ones of MIAs and POWs to understand the military has not given up in determining the fate of all POWs and MIAs.
"If you know someone that is missing, they've really made a concerted effort to find the MIAs," said Cooksey. "This team has a team of archaeologists who go in once they find a crash site."
Though they often find just bone fragments of the missing servicemen, those discoveries can often bring closure to those left behind, Cooksey said.
Meanwhile, even though he is no longer a member of the Congress, Cooksey keeps abreast of developments concerning POWs and MIAs.
As a former member of the House, Cooksey said he has access to congressional reports and information on file at the Library of Congress.
Congressional information on POWs and MIAs has demonstrated that the numbers of servicemen lost or captured during wars and military engagements has continually declined since World War II.
"The good message in all of this is that the number of MIAs and POWs has diminished dramatically in our last few wars," Cooksey said.
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