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Nonprofit recovers missing soldiers

Words by Tess Becker

War is a complicated subject, full of controversy and lost lives. Soldiers who lose their lives in combat may be lost to nature, many of which are lost to history. 

Project Recover wouldn’t stand for that and made it their work to recover the remains of soldiers that have been missing in action for as far back as World War II. 

Starting back in 1993, Project Recover’s founder Pat Scannon was spending time in Palau with his wife when they were invited to help locate the Japanese trawler George H.W. Bush. The locals directed him to a downed aircraft from WWII, a B52 bomber. 

“‘What happened to the aircraft? What happened to the aircrew?’ He took it upon himself at that moment to find out those answers,” Project Recover’s President and CEO Derek Abbey explains to Smiley News.

“It seemed like it was just wrong that people didn't know and then in the process, learned about all the losses that had occurred in and around Palau and the hundreds that were still missing.”

Then he started laying out a plan to recover missing soldiers. 

“He started doing this work on his own because he thought it was the right thing to do that these families would have answers,” Abbey says. “And then relatively quickly realized that this is work that's probably best done as part of a team instead of an individual and then created what was initially known as the BentProp Project.”

The BentProp Project would be informally called Project Recover in 2012 when they formed a partnership with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the University of California, San Diego, and the University of Delaware then officially became Project Recover in 2018.

Since joining forces with these organizations, they’ve been able to undergo underwater expeditions – but they aren’t limited to any particular climate or location.

Whether it be the jungle or the ocean if they have a lead they’re going to work to follow it. Their work is supported by a team of historians, archeologists, and volunteers, many of which are former military.

While much of their early work was done in Palau centered on WWII artifacts and missing soldiers, they’ve since expanded to different conflicts including the Vietnam War and Desert Storm and have completed over 60 projects in over 20 countries. 

“We are open to any and all work associated with those who are missing to include training losses occurred on or around our shores and in our mountains and in our lakes,” Abbey says. “So we've done those missions that aren't necessarily associated with a conflict.”

The entire goal of the project is to help bring soldiers home when they’re lost to war to help bring their family’s a form of closure.

“We truly believe is when you die on the cloth of our nation, and you swore an oath to the Constitution, we, as a collective country, make a promise to that individual, that we will do everything that we can, should they fall in battle, to bring them home to their families,” Abbey says. “And that doesn't have an expiration date.”

This article aligns with the UN SDG Partnerships for the Goals.

This article aligns with the following UN SDGs