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Captain Alan R. Trent - POW, MIA, or KIA?

Updated on July 11, 2013
Captain Alan R. Trent
Captain Alan R. Trent | Source

Where are you Captain Alan R. Trent? You spoke to me this morning, as you do so often when you’re wondering if we have forgotten. I promise, we haven’t forgotten, in spite of how it seems. We will never forget, not until the last question is answered and you have all come home.

You were 29 years old when they declared you a POW or MIA or KIA. They didn't know what you were, or did they? They know they didn't find you and they know they haven’t brought you home. It’s been 38 years since the war in Vietnam ended. Your family still doesn't know where or what you are but the US government has you listed as “XX – Presumptive Finding of Death”. What does that mean?

You have no grave, only your name etched on a long, black granite wall with over 58,000 others. There is a simple cross etched in the stone by your name. It tells the world that you are still missing. It’s ironic isn't it, that the cross was the symbol chosen to reflect how we turned our backs and left you there.

Is it bad that I sometimes hope you were killed when your F4 went down in Cambodia? It sounds bad, but I can’t bear the thought of you being a prisoner for all these years. I’d rather think you were buried in that acidic soil that is destroying whatever remains might be recovered. They say there’s not much time left before the soil will destroy all traces of any DNA that might help families find closure.

If you are still a prisoner, then I am even more proud of you. Some who cooperated did come home. What secrets did they tell to buy their freedom? If you are still alive, then you are the bravest man I know. It means you didn't sell out a country that turned its back on you. That’s huge in my book.

You know, some of your friends and colleagues returned in flag-draped caskets. They have a diamond by their name on the wall. Go figure.

Some came home with broken bodies, broken hearts, and broken minds. Those who came home alive were treated so badly. I’m almost glad you didn't have to endure that. They served our country so proudly; sacrificed so much, and we spit on them and left them to fend for themselves. Many are still living in the shadows of homelessness and PTSD, or, behind the dark and dismal confines of a VA Hospital - forgotten. It is a scar on our nation that will never be healed until you are all back home and taken care of.

Your family has done okay, but it’s been really hard not knowing. They were so proud of you that they have walked tall and proud in your absence but they never gave up, not for a second. You would be proud of them too.

Well Captain Trent, I just wanted to spend some time with you this morning. I still wear your bracelet and look forward to the day I can put it away forever. I know there will be no good news at the end of this journey but we owe it to you to put a circle around that cross on the wall. That’s what they do when remains are identified. I hope you know that there are still many who care and are holding them accountable. They wear buttons, fly flags, and stand in solidarity with other mothers, and brothers, wives and sons, husbands and daughters, fathers and sisters who still wait for answers. They will not stop until every family has an answer.

You get some rest Captain Trent. There’s still one more flight to make.

In Memory

In memory of Captain Alan (Al) R. Trent, born May 22. 1940 and shot down inside Cambodia on May 13, 1970 while flying a scramble alert mission in an F4D Phantom II. He was accompanied by his co-pilot, 1st Lt. Eric J. Hubert. The crash was witnessed by other pilots and debris was scattered across 0.3 miles. In November of 1973, both pilots were declared “dead, bodies not recovered”.

Captain Alan Trent served in the 480th Tactical Fighter Wing, 12th Tactical Fighter Squadron, United States Air Force at Phu Cat Airbase in South Vietnam. He was born on May 22, 1940 in Wadsworth, Ohio. His name is located on Panel 10W Line 037 of the Vietnam Memorial Wall.

Map of the Crash Site

Map showing the location where Captain Trent was shot down.
Map showing the location where Captain Trent was shot down.

Comments

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  • lrc7815 profile imageAUTHOR

    Linda Crist 

    5 years ago from Central Virginia

    Hello Jools99. You said it beautifully. For those who wait, it will never be enugh. Thank you for the visit and for understanding why this had to be written.

  • lrc7815 profile imageAUTHOR

    Linda Crist 

    5 years ago from Central Virginia

    Joanveronica, thank you! Both our countries have a sad history but for some families, it is more than history. I cannot imagine the pain of uncertainty, not knowing the fate of a loved one for so long. Thank you for understanding the emotion of this tribute. I am sorry that your own country gave you such a clear understanding. Yes, very sad.

  • Jools99 profile image

    Jools99 

    5 years ago from North-East UK

    Interesting, thought provoking and sad article Linda - all these years later, still no real peace - everything else, names etched on granite, crosses etc must seem like a sort of lip service but it will never be enough for those who lose someone this way.

  • joanveronica profile image

    Joan Veronica Robertson 

    5 years ago from Concepcion, Chile

    What a beautiful tribute! Voted up, awesome and beautiful! Would we could eliminate War, all wars, horrible events. I can so identify with this, in my country (Chile) it's been over 35 years for families trying to find out about the fate of their "disappeared" relatives and loved ones. I believe most of the bodies were thrown into the ocean from helicopters by the military that took over the government by force. Gruesome! These cases are still going on in the law courts, without much success, sadly.

  • lrc7815 profile imageAUTHOR

    Linda Crist 

    5 years ago from Central Virginia

    Thanks Mhatter99. This issue is near and dear and I wanted to tell Alan's story in a way that honored and respected his service and his family. Your comment means a lot to me.

  • Mhatter99 profile image

    Martin Kloess 

    5 years ago from San Francisco

    AWESOME! Thank you. Thank you. Great report, for so many reasons. I understand we are still negotiating with N. Korea for remains of heroes.

  • lrc7815 profile imageAUTHOR

    Linda Crist 

    5 years ago from Central Virginia

    Hello Wayne! Thank you for sharing this with me, including the story of your friend. There are still so many sad stories.

    I did not go into the details because they were covered extenively in one of the links I provided and I didn't want to be redundant. But, the other pilots in the area did not see parachutes. I believe it was rumored (at some point in time) that one pilot was see alive. It was never validated. I believe they also found a shoe at the crash site but nothing to indicate survival of the crew. The facts change constantly. Every now and then the family here's from DOD and gets hopeful that they might finally have answers and then, nothing.

    I did not know Captain Trent personally. I had been involved in the POW/MIA issue for years when I learned that his sister worked for the same employer as me.We wereacquainted and so I asked about her brother. We formed a bond through the issue and I asked to wear Alan's bracelet. He has been a presence ever since. Today, I heard hm and I couldn't NOT write about him.

    Were you ther? A veteran? You know the area so I'm guessing yes?

    I'm so glad you commented. I feel like they have all been remembered today. thank you so much!!!!!

  • Wayne Brown profile image

    Wayne Brown 

    5 years ago from Texas

    The crash site is in an extremely rugged area near where the Ho Chi Minh Trail transits the mountain range between Vietnam and Cambodia. You did not mention whether the other pilots observed any parachutes indicating that the crew ejected prior to the crash. I cannot imagine putting a F-4 down in such terrain in any fashion that would be less than fatal if one was still aboard...not in that terrain. Just being on the ground there in good health would be enough of a challenge. A friend of mine from USAF Flight School was shoot down in a C-130 gunship over Laos in December 1972. No one on the aircraft was accounted for until ten years after the war ended and that was only because some of the local Laotians knew of the crash site. The families endured a lot of waiting and a lot of false promises offered in exchange for money as to the whereabouts of their loved ones. When the site was finally located, there was enough skeletal remains to identify George for his family. It is difficult to give up hope but, in this case, it may be the one thing the families need to do to heal and get passed it all. Closure is a necessary thing for the human mind. Thanks for sharing and remembering. ~WB

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