Wives Wait — In ‘A Kind Of Limbo' Sunday, April 9 , Hope Holds On Hard In Hearts Of Families Of MIAs
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Among the millions of Americans who watched the televised return of the prisoners of war from Indochina were Mr. and Mrs. Calvin Maxwell of Carlsbad, who hoped “we might see our son back in the background, even though the military says he's not supposed to be there.’’ Mrs Benny Herrera of Albuquerque “watched them come down out of the plane and I wanted so much for one of them to be my son.” And Angie Lovato of Santa Fe “just couldn’t watch them return. I tried it one time and I just sat there and cried — it’s too sad.” Mrs. Lovato’s brother, Army Spec. 5 Robert Trujillo of Pomaque, as well as Capt. Calvin M. Maxwell, (NB: should be Calvin W. Maxwell) M.Sgt. Frederick D. Herrera and at least 11 other New Mexicans, is listed as missing in action in Southeast Asia. “As far as any official records are concerned,” says Mrs. Dorothy Pasekoff of Alamogordo, whose husband, Lt. Col. Robert E. Pasekoff, disappeared March 13, 1966, “he has vanished from the face of the earth. “It kind of threw me when they told me he was MIA,” she said. “If he was dead I could understand...or if he was living I could understand. But I just couldn’t grasp the full meaning of it.
“I can’t truly have a life of my own now — I’m not a widow and I’m not married. But someday it’s got to end." said Mrs. Pasekoff. mother of three teenaged children. “I do not believe my husband is still alive,” she .said. “I’m aware that he could be, but I find it very hard to believe. He was one of a crew of seven on a downed AC47 and I find it very hard to believe that even under those circumstances, you could totally lose seven men.” An Albuquerque MIA wife, who also believes her husband is dead, asked not to be identified because “I’m not looking for anybody's sympathy. I just couldn’t take that.” She echoed the statements of other wives of missing career military pilots: “He would rather be flying an airplane than anything else in the world. The fact that he may have died that way...well, I think that was the way he would have wanted it.” Rebecca McCarty of Alamogordo, who feels her husband was killed when his F4 jet fighter was shot down June 24, 1972, said, “This was something that my husband wanted to do. He chose this career and I knew that when we got married. I knew the chances and I knew it could happen. “It makes me feel my loss very acutely when I see the others returning, but he was doing what he wanted to do.”
Kay Maxwell, Capt. Maxwell’s wife, firmly believes her husband is alive. “They found the aircraft (a Birddog spotter plane that went down Oct. 10, 1969) and found no evidence of blood or a body. If he were dead thev should have found some evidence of it.” About the war she says she really has no opinion. “I haven’t thought about it much. He did what his country told him to do and it happened to us. I guess that’s part of being an American.” she said. Her mother-in-law, however, wishes “we had never gotten into that war. I’m glad there’s peace and I’m glad the others have returned.” “We may be dreaming,” said Maxwell’s father, “but they never sent us his dog tags or anything, so we’re just going to keep right on believing that he is alive.” The mother thinks that “maybe they (the Viet Cong) kept moving him through the jungles and maybe they just haven't found him yet themselves.”
Trujillo’s family has “hopes that he is alive and we have a feeling that he’ll come home eventually,” Mrs. Lovato said. “I just have a feeling that he was captured...that he is still alive.” Trujillo was listed as missing in South Vietnam Jan. 7. 1968 and the family “has had no word of any kind on his whereabouts since,” Mrs. Lovato said. Mrs. Herrera is fairly certain that she saw her son, missing since March 1968, on a television film released by the North Vietnamese of POWs. “He looked very thin, but I thought it really was him.” she said. “We just hope and pray. I still have faith, but I wonder where he could be and whether he will ever come home.” Mrs. Pasekoff said the military has told her that teams will investigate all known crash and grave sites. “When this is done, and no more can be found, then they will determine the men’s status,” she said. In the meantime, said a Holloman Air Force Base spokesman at Alamogordo, MIAs and their dependents continue to receive all the pay and benefits of any active duty military family. MIAs, the spokesman said, continue to accrue seniority and rank until they are declared officially dead. “It’s just as if my husband were here and stationed out at Kirtland (AFB),” said the Albuquerque wife. “We receive all the benefits and everybody out at the base is wonderful.” “All the (MIA) wives have personnel affairs officers assigned to them. They’ve been just super. They handle all the personal details that we feel we can’t take care of ourselves.” Most of the wives said they had very little contact, outside of official briefings and meetings, with other MIA wives. “We have different friends and different interests,’’ Mrs. Pasekoff said. “About the only thing we have in common is that our husbands are MIAs.” Most worked for a time after their husbands first were declared missing with various MIA-POW organizations. But this participation, they said, eventually was cut back because of the pressure of children, jobs and housework. One who has remained active is Mrs. Maxwell, who has no children.
For nearly three years, 1970-72, Mrs. Maxwell was New Mexico coordinator for the National League of American POWs and MIAs in Southeast Asia. During that time she went to Geneva and Paris with a delegation of wives seeking information about their husbands. “It was a mediocre meeting,” she said of their contact with a North Vietnamese official. “There was a sort of tenseness and mutual distrust on both sides.” The wives received no information as a result of the visit, she said. Mrs. Maxwell, who remains active in the MIA movement, said 391 Americans are listed by the United States as “missing in action-presumed dead” as a result of the Korean War. “We don't want that same situation to happen this time,” she said. “We will continue to pressure the governments of North Vietnam and the United States to see that we get a full accounting.” Until then, the wives will continue to wait “in a sort of limbo.” one said. “I think my husband is dead — but then I'm also a great believer in miracles.”