When one of our military service members falls in the line of duty or on the field of battle, his or her family grieves and all Americans feel a measure of sadness. When the body is returned home and family and friends gather to pay their last respects, there is a measure of closure.
For many families, though, a brother, son, husband, sister, daughter, wife or friend has gone missing while on duty somewhere in the world and has not been found. Those soldiers, sailors, airmen and marines become categorized as missing in action. Families and friends wait, sometimes for decades, for the final word. It's often a lonely and empty feeling.
Satellite Forensics Lab Likely Headed to Nebraska
Soon, if all goes according to plan, a group of people who help bring that closure for the families and friends of those missing in action will be establishing a special forensics laboratory at Offutt Air Force Base, here in Nebraska. The Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, which now has its headquarters in Hawaii, is close to establishing a satellite laboratory at Offutt.
I'm optimistic Omaha will be selected as the new satellite location for JPAC's lab, which speaks very highly of the research programs offered at both Creighton and the University of Nebraska Medical Center, as well as the excellent quality of life we have to offer in Nebraska.
The Lab Will Make Nebraska Even More Important for Military Families
JPAC's main mission is to locate, recover and identify missing personnel from past military conflicts. This is a poignant duty they perform for our country. Establishing a satellite here will add to Nebraska's already important role for the U.S. Armed Forces. We will be home to a team that helps families find closure for their long-lost loved ones.
I recently read the touching story of JPAC finally bringing home Nebraskan Sgt. Jim O'Brien, who had officially been missing since the Korean War. A decade of extensive research determined remains found on a Korean island were those of Sgt. O'Brien, which brought relief to his family, who had all but given up hope of ever learning what happened to him.
I first heard several years ago that JPAC was interested in setting up a satellite lab on the mainland United States. After the terrorist attacks of 9/11, they determined the need for a forensics lab in the Lower 48 to react quickly when tragedy strikes.
Nebraskans Helped Make the Case for Omaha
JPAC began looking at Omaha as a possible site because it made sense to locate the lab in the center of the country to get quickly to either coast and anywhere in between. Over the last two years, I helped facilitate efforts by groups of JPAC personnel to evaluate the Omaha area against their needs and requirements.
We helped facilitate meetings between JPAC and the scientists at Creighton and UNMC with whom they might affiliate, and with Offutt personnel, business leaders, realtors, K-12 teachers and school administrators. Among the most important meetings were those with the regular Nebraskans who spoke of the high quality of life the JPAC staff and their families could enjoy here.
They looked at our neighborhoods and Omaha's downtown, Offutt and the Old Market, schools and scientific labs, the Henry Doorly Zoo and the College World Series facilities, and the music scene and other cultural attractions. They even tried some Runzas. We have a lot to offer in Nebraska, and it feels good when others see it, too, and want to join us.
Let's all give the JPAC team a hearty Nebraska welcome when they set up their honorable and important work in our state.