Families hope DNA can help find missing military members

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AUSTIN (KXAN) – 200 people whose relatives disappeared while serving in the military hope a Saturday seminar could help them get closure.

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency travels to seven or eight cities each year, taking DNA swabs from family members of those missing.

They are put into a reference sample database, which will let experts match them to remains found on battlefields from World War Two to more recent conflicts.

Dona Reeves-Marquardt’s brother Captain Claude Batty, Junior, was stationed in Japan. He vanished when his B-26 Marauder crashed after leaving a base in Japan on November 30, 1950.

It was just days after the Chinese invaded part of the Korean Peninsula, and American forces were retreating.

“We’ve been waiting 60 years to try to find out what happened,” Reeves-Marquardt said.

Reeves-Marquardt was only 18 at the time. She says officials think they may have found where he crashed landed, but the site is in North Korea and inaccessible.

She hopes the DNA database can help give her closure.

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency researches and investigates these cases. They also work to recover and identify remains of service members.

The Agency prepares case studies for families. It includes historical documents, explains what the government knew about their case at the time, what was done to recover their loved ones and how likely it is remains can be recovered.

“It’s a real eye opening experience,” Mike Fowler with the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency said. “They always say not knowing is the hardest thing so it provides some measure of comfort for them to know.”

“They have been very supportive,” Reeves-Marquardt said. “They have given us whatever records they have. They have contributed of course our swab, if you will, for the DNA. We hope that that is going to be the distinguishing feature that is going to help identify my brother.”

Reeves-Marquardt’s mother, who lived to be 97, believed her son would eventually walk through the door.

Captain Batty does have a headstone at Arlington National Cemetery.

“But we know that the remains are not there. It is simply for us that that is a place of whatever closure we can derive from that ceremony,” Reeves-Marquardt said.

Around 200 people registered to attend today’s event; most are from Texas. Others traveled from Oklahoma and Mexico.

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