Spec.5 Joseph Puggi
MIA -- 2/2/68
There in the dungeon, a gossamer sihouette,
Screaming in silence, he gropes for a glimmer of light.
His sentence -- an endless night.
A shipwrecked pariah abandoned by captains to purge the mind
Of crimson-slopped cradles in jungles; the dirge that they left behind.
Clenching my fist, this frightened child
Whose innocence your game defiled
Cries to come home
To ears of stone.
Etched on the bracelet, the name with no face is
Giving disgrace a new meaning the war's only grazed
Humanity's conscience -- dazed.
Consigning your life to the land and the rights you were asked to save,
Find Neglect and Oblivion, Forsakement -- rewards your country gave.
See Joe, they've got new fields to plow,
New bombs to build, they can't stop now
To think of you.
Nam's reign is through.
Though fifteen years passed, I still wear the metal
representation of you, who I may never know;
A vigilant candle's glow,
To make you aware, somehow, someone still cares, that you're not alone
While most of my heart prays to He, free from pain, your soul's long since flown.
But to death's door you'll live in me
As proof of war's iniquity.
Don't worry, Joe.
I won't let go.
In the latter part of 1971, a friend at work was distributing POW bracelets on behalf of the National League of Families. As I remember, they were $2.50 and the money was to go to the League to help focus support on gaining release of American POW's in Vietnam. The deal was, you wore the bracelet until 'your guy' came home. Mine bore the inscription,
'Spec 5 - Joseph Puggi, 2/2/68'. Everyone I knew had one, and in 1973, when the POW's started returning home, each day a list of their names was published in the newspaper. Every morning we'd rush to see if 'our guy' was on the list. Maybe tomorrow.....
I'll never forget watching President Nixon announce on t.v. that all our men were home, and screaming back at the set, "What the #&@! are you talking about!!" Who would have ever believed that this country would allow a single soldier to go unaccounted for. Young men who had answered their nation's call were left in the jungles of Vietnam and literally abandoned by the country they were willing to die for. My God.
Here it is, 30 years later, and I still wear Joe's bracelet. It's never left my wrist for a moment, and the thought of this man has never left my heart. About the time I wrote the poem on this page, I contacted Joe's family through the League of Families, and received a very moving letter back. Occasionally someone will come up to me and say, 'Wow, is that a POW bracelet?' ...you don't see many of them anymore. Most of the younger people I know have no idea what it is. So Joe and I tell them. It's important that they know. It's important that Joe and the thousands of men still unaccounted for are never forgotten. He's been my personal ambassador for peace, and spokesman for the high price of war.
Here it is, 30 years later. Joe and I are still 'holding hands', and the President of the United States is once again amassing troops, this time for a threatened war against Iraq. We look to the White House and want to know, how dare you? How dare you ask a single young man to put his life on the line for you, when you've turned your back on those that answered the call before? Oh, they will go...just as Joe and so many others did, because that is what heroes do. They are willing to die, if that's what it takes, to make our country safe. What are you willing to do, Mr. President, for them? Before you call the hundreds of thousands you are now sending to Iraq, what are you doing for the 1,891 you left behind in Southeast Asia? Is this how our country treats its heroes??
"If you are able, save for them a place inside of you
and save one backward glance when you are leaving
for the places they can no longer go.
Be not ashamed to say you loved them,
though you may or may not have always.
Take what they have taught you with their dying
and keep it with your own.
And in that time when men decide and feel safe to call the war insane,
take one moment to embrace those gentle heroes you left behind."
Major Michael Davis O'Donnell
1 January 1970
Dak To, Vietnam
Listed as KIA February 7, 1978
The following is public information, courtesy of the POW Network. I have chosen not to include any personal information I received in my correspondence with the family because I consider it a breach of their privacy. I've chosen not to attempt further correspondence for fear of causing them any further grief. I can only imagine what unbearable pain it must have been to live so many years not knowing the fate of their loved one. I would never want them to relive any of it for my benefit.
If any of my visitors know any members of the Puggi family, please do refer them to this site and my email link below. If they find anything objectionable here, I will remove it immediately. My sole purpose is to give honor publicly to a man I've honored and cherished personally for many years.
PUGGI, JOSEPH DAVID
Name: Joseph David Puggi
Rank/Branch: E5/US Army
Unit: B Troop, 1st Squad, 9th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division
Date of Birth: 26 November 1946
Home City of Record: Pleasantville NJ
Date of Loss: 02 February 1968
Country of Loss: South Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 161209N 1081006E (AT960937)
Status (in 1973): Missing In Action
Other Personnel In Incident: Kenneth J. Patton; Joe H. Pringle; Charles
Adkins; Donald Burnham (all missing)
Source: Compiled by Homecoming II Project 15 June 1990 from one or more of
the following: raw data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence
with POW/MIA families, published sources, interviews. Updated by the P.O.W.
REMARKS:CRASHSITE/PRINGLE ID FOUND
SYNOPSIS: Donald Burnham was the pilot of a UH1H helicopter (#66-16442) that
departed Camp Evans, Quang Tri, Republic of Vietnam for Chu Lai, Republic of
Vietnam on February 2, 1968. Also aboard were SP4 Charles Adkins, SFC Joe
Pringle, SSgt Joseph Puggi, passengers; and SP4 Kenneth Patton, crewchief.
The personnel aboard the aircraft were all members of B Troop, 1st Squad,
9th Cavalry, 1st Cavalry Division.
During a ground radar-controlled approach to Da Nang Airbase, the controller
lost radio contact with the helicopter and subsequently lost radar contact.
The last positive position of the aircraft was 12 miles north of Da Nang.
After attempts to contact Captain Burnham by radio failed, ramp checks were
conducted by another pilot from his unit. Search of the area to the north of
Da Nang failed to locate the missing aircraft.
On May 28, 1968, a crashed and burned UH1H helicopter (tail #6442) was
located in the appropriate vicinity and a search party recovered an ID tag
belonging to SFC Pringle, several weapons, and some human bones. The ID tag
and weapons were given to an unidentified major; subsequent attempts to
trace the weapons have been unsuccessful.
All human remains were given to the U.S. Army Mortuary at Da Nang, and were
subsequently determined unidentifiable. Search attempts terminated on
November 16, 1972. Because of the density of the underbrush, no attempt to
recover further remains was made. The crash site was photographed in July
1974, at which time it became known that parts of the aircraft had been
recovered by a Vietnamese woodcutter. No evidence of human remains were
found in the area.
Donald Burnham's photograph was identified by a Vietnamese rallier as having
been a prisoner of war. CIA analysis failed to determine why Burnham's photo
was selected, as neither he nor the other crew were seen by returned POWs.
If it were not for over 10,000 reports of Americans still held captive in
Southeast Asia, the families of the men aboard UH1H #6442 might be able to
give up hope of seeing their sons and brothers again. But as long as there
is evidence that even one is alive, the possibility exists that any of the
crew of the UH1H lost on February 2, 1968 could be alive.
If any of you also question how our country could abandon heroes like Joe and so many others, then I urge you to do what you can to help.
Please visit the following sites:
Operation Just Cause
National League of Families
The Virtual Wall
History of POW/MIA flag
Origin of POW bracelets
A personal note here. I read a message in a guestbook from a young lady who said she purchased a bracelet and wears it on Memorial Day and special occasions. I saw another young lady in a shop once who said the bracelet belongs to her mother and she borrows it once in awhile. I'm sure both of them mean well, but this bracelet is not a piece of jewelry or fashion statement. It is a commitment. It's to be worn until the person for whom it was made returns home. In the shower, with your tuxedo or prom dress or wedding dress, every minute of every day. There is nothing wrong with you not being able to make that commitment. There are many other things you can do. But please be clear about why you want to wear this particular bracelet, and then only do so if you can wear it as it was intended. The person who's name is etched on it deserves no less.
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This Award is issued to this site by the Advisory Board
of the POW/MIA Freedom Fighters Organization,
for it's early and steadfast commitment to our missing Warriors