The Reorganization That Never Was … Part III

This article was written by and first published by POW warrior.  It is reprinted here by permission

by powwarrior


As we addressed in Part II of this series, after then Secretary of Defense Hagel asked for a pause in the reorganization, all family groups gave them the space they asked for, with the exception of one.  Ann Mills Griffiths took this as an opportunity to become a wedge and along with the VSOs who work exclusively with the National League of Families, they collectively sent a letter to Secretary Hagel outlining Ann’s perspective on the reorganization to date.  While others respected the break that was asked for, we know and have confirmation from a DoD official that Ann met with Christine Wormouth in early November.  When others asked if they would be provided the opportunity to meet with Wormouth, they were told that requests would be forwarded to Wormouth’s military assistant, “for consideration.”  Additionally, it was explained that Wormouth was not intending to open up dialogue with all family groups.

So much for this promise:

“I want to ensure every stakeholder is aware of our intent, and an active participant in this change-process and feels empowered to provide feedback.” – Michael Lumpkin

All through December and through the holidays there was silence.  Then in early January a DoD conference call took place where family groups and VSOs were ceremoniously introduced to what would equate to the DoD’s third attempt at a reorganization team since the reorganization was announced in March of 2014.  First, there was Mr. Lumpkin, then Alisa Stack along with the PACT and The Clearing and now Rear Admiral Franken, LTG Michael Linnington, General Kelly McKeague along with DASD for Public Affairs and Community Outreach René Bardorf.

There was no explanation, no mention of the PACT or the Clearing, no mention of why this sudden change was taking place.  Yet, one thing was painstakingly clear, the “robust two-way communication” was gone.  Bardorf controlled the flow, content and topics and whenever a question veered in a direction that was not to her liking, she cut individuals off.   The voice of the missing personnel families was no longer wanted or needed.  Everyone but the League representatives and the VSOs were taken completely off guard.  When someone attempted to be “empowered” to provide the once-mentioned “feedback.” Franken became agitated and lashed out at family members on the call.  The format of these calls had done a 180 and no one even had the decency to let the rest in on the change.

The whispering campaign turned into a witch hunt and anyone who wasn’t willing to go along with the charade was removed from the calls.  Family groups were investigated and First Amendment rights were trampled on.  For more on this, a National Alliance’s newsletter from February, 2015 does a great job of outlining the murky waters that this third reorganization team has taken us into.  They only wanted people who would blindly follow their lead, not question their decisions and not remind them of previous promises.  René Bardorf was quoted as saying, “Any and all promises made prior to October 31st are no longer on the table.”   We found this quote almost incredulous coming from someone with no real standing in the reorganization.

Family groups were so taken aback by all of this that four of the five major family groups issued a press release in February outlining their concerns.  The reorganization had clearly fallen off the tracks and this new leadership team went so far as admitting they knew next to nothing about the accounting community.  Once again, family members were removed from the process and given no voice in a process that they were going to have to live with long after Franken, McKeague and Bardorf were gone and moved on to new responsibilities.

DASD Bardorf showed her complete lack of understanding of  POW/MIA accounting by adding active-duty military support groups to the calls.  Groups, while very important for today’s military, had no history, role of interest in the POW/MIA issue.  Groups like, Wounded Warrior, The Military Child, Operation Homefront, Blue Star Families, Student Veterans and even the USO.  Again, while these groups do great work, their inclusion in the POW/MIA issue, to (tongue-in-cheek) quote John McCain, “boggles the mind.”   And if that weren’t enough, she issued her own Rules of Engagement for the conference calls.  We didn’t even know that a civilian, let alone a DASD for Public Affairs could issues RoE’s.

The conference calls continued with more of the tawdry illusion of progress while the reorganization which was supposed to bring families into the fold, correct wrong-doing and change the culture of the workforce, has been so watered down it is almost unrecognizable.  Instead of a top down restructuring it has become piecemeal.  The lab staff in Hawaii have their collective heads on swivel with word of their job status changing almost weekly and staff in Washington still unsure of what they are supposed to be doing or where they will be posted.  Yet, this brand new agency is supposed to be at full operation in a little over four months.

In June at the Vietnam meetings when the newly appointed Director of DPAA Michael Linnington was asked about the report/recommendations that The Clearing had submitted prior to the October 31, 2014 shutdown, Linnington mentioned something to the effect of the DoD not needing input from outside sources to do their jobs.  In fact, when family group leaders asked about the excessive amount of money that was spent on The Clearing and what their role would be, they were told that The Clearing was going to step away from working with the families and would be given internal roles within the reorganization.  A heck of a way to spend a reported $7-9 million dollars.

The only aspect of the reorganization that appears to be getting any attention at all is the private public partnerships (P3’s).  Yet, they are off to an apparent rough start with a somewhat lackadaisical leader in the recently demoted Dr. Tom Holland.  Holland, as you may recall, was the head of the Central Identification Lab at the former JPAC.  He was replaced by Medical Examiner, Dr. Edward Reedy in January.  There has been some discussion about having a ME vs. a forensic anthropologist overseeing the lab.  By definition, a ME works almost exclusively with tissue and organs and a forensic anthropologist almost exclusively with bones.  There has been some question as to Reedy’s role in the lab, which we will address in a future posting.

These mystical P3’s have taken on a life of their own and become the heart of the faux reorganization.  Some were taken by surprise with Holland’s first presentation as the leader of the private/public partnerships.  At the Vietnam meetings in June, Holland began his poorly organized talk with a photo of a Wall Street fat-cat with a huge dollar-sign chain around his neck.  Holland then went on to say that inexperienced individuals were coming out of the woodwork to do excavations thinking that they were going to make millions.  Holland was quick to confirm, that kind of money is just not there.  We suspect that Holland and some of the P3 leadership are going to be butting heads because of the unorganized nature of this new branch of the accounting community due in no small part to the lack of enthusiasm on the part of Dr. Holland.

In the final installment, of this series we’ll look at the role that the P3’s are playing in this misnomer of a reorganization.

National Alliance of Families Newsletter

The August issue of the newsletter of the National Alliance of Families for the Return of America’s Missing Servicemen is available online at this link.

(The National Alliance is not to be confused with AMG’s National League of POW/MIA Families.)

As always, this newsletter is filled with information of interest to MIA families.  If you’ve received these newsletters via email in the past, you should be aware of this:

Important Notice – Our computer crashed! While we were able to save our files, we did loose many of our email addresses. Reconstructing the lists is a massive project due to the size of our distribution list. If you are no longer receiving the newsletter directly email us at to be added back to the list. Individuals requesting the newsletter in word format, rather than pdf, must let us know.

The Reorganization that Never Was … Part II

The Reorganization that Never Was … Part II

This article was written by and first published by POW warrior.  It is reprinted here by permission.

Former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel

In the first installment of this series, we shared the specific promises that were publicly made and documented as part of the reorganization of the POW/MIA accounting agency.  The overarching promise, the one that gave long-time family members a glimmer of hope, was the idea that we were going to be part of this process.  Specifically, “I want to ensure every stakeholder is aware of our intent, and an active participant in this change-process and feels empowered to provide feedback.”  These were words spoken by ASD Michael Lumpkin in front of a room full of family members and DPMO/JPAC staff in June of 2014.

At this time The PACT (Personnel Accounting Consolidation Task force) was put in place, lead by DoD civilian, Alisa Stack and her Deputy Ross Brown.  Their role was to oversee all stages and aspects of the proposed 18-month reorganization.  Their primary directive was to take the policy that was approved by then Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and established by Lumpkin, and put it into an actionable plan.

This is where The Clearing was supposed to break new ground and open the long-closed door of communication between the families and the DoD. The Clearing, a DC based business consulting firm, was contracted by the DoD to foster external communication with the families and encompass our concerns, our issues and what we felt was needed in the new agency.  They had been working even before the Annual Meetings in 2014 and were part of the meetings, having face-to-face chats with family members and getting a better grasp of the dysfunction from our perspective.  That was in mid-June, 2014.  In mid-August they also began moderating conference calls with family groups to continue gaining an overview of the issues through the eyes of the families.

Through the summer, the PACT focused on the more urgent aspects of the reorganization, aligning the resources and various avenues of funding for a single standing agency.  No small task considering the maze of agencies involved in the accounting community.  Not only did they align the funding, they also had to funnel all of the human resources under one umbrella.

It is still unclear as to how or why, but once Christine Wormouth was confirmed by the Senate as the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy in June 2014, Michael Lumpkin seamlessly disappeared from the process. Lumpkin was serving in his given role as ASD for Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflict as well as overseeing the responsibilities of USD for Policy which was vacated by James Miller in January 2014.   Conversations with other family members confirmed our suspicion that Lumpkin may have been quietly pushed out because of his open-minded approach to the reorganization.  He gave multiple sources the impression that even when the Policy position was filled, he would still be overseeing the reorganization.

Others shared with us during the meetings in June that Lumpkin was very responsive to communication from family group leaders, NGO’s, private citizens and individual family members.  Any direct communication was responded to personally and in most cases within 48 hours.  He seemed to be living up to the policy that he shared with families and to Congress.  He was clearly a man of his word.  He was willing to listen to anyone and everyone.  He gave the impression that his mindset was to understand the issue from all angles, not just the side of those who signed his paycheck.  This may have not sat well with some in DC or Hawaii.

Wormouth seemed to have a hands-off approach and for the most part spent her day to day time focusing on present day policy issues, she would receive weekly updates from the PACT and when time permitted, would take part in conference calls with various stakeholders.  But her input was sporadic at best. As one source told us, “She never appeared to be fully engaged in the reorganzation.”

By the early fall Stack and the PACT had hammer out some specifics as far as their overall plan and scope of their reorganization process. You can find those specifics here).  PACT leadership was meeting weekly with family group leaders, veterans’ groups and other stakeholders to ensure they had a good grasp of the issue from everyone’s perspective.  Working Groups within DPMO and JPAC were working in their assigned tasks as well as defining the cultural change that Lumpkin had promised. While to most directly involved in the issue, this was a breath of fresh air – everyone having an equal voice and working collectively – one individual didn’t like sharing center stage.

As we have learned over the past 40 years, some people have been given the luxury of being the only voice in the room.  When Alisa Stack made it clear to all those involved that no one voice was going to be heard above the din of others, that is when the reorganization truly ended.  While the overwhelming majority was hopeful, someone else didn’t like it.  So, in typical and almost expected fashion, the whispering campaign began.  Slights were beginning to appear in online publications.  Indirect comments directed at the PACT about ; “ … educated insights from experienced, dedicated professionals are being neither sought nor welcomed by the transition team.”

This person also voluntarily removed their organization from the weekly conference calls because being on equal footing with everyone else was not their cup of tea. We were told that even speaking in turn was difficult for this person.   The reason we mention this is because, as  other sources told us, as part of the whispering campaign, people inside the government and some of the NGO’s were told that call-in information for the weekly conference calls simply stopped arriving giving the impression that the remaining family groups were being exclusive when in reality it was their choice.  This added fuel to the fire and lead to what occurred on October 31st, 2014.

On what was to be a routine conference call with the PACT, family groups, VSOs and NGOs, participants were addressed by then Secretary Hagel wherein he stated that he was asking for “a pause” of two week so that he and his people could make sure things were heading in the right direction, that, as he put it, “all our ducks are in a row.”  This was also the call when crumbs were dropped, where the only person that the government has truly listened to over the decades of dysfunction stated that there was a desire to see more of a military presence in the structure of the reorganization team.  Hints were also dropped that would later lay the foundation for attacks against other family groups questioning their legitimacy and membership.
As those that follow the issue know, that two week pause turned into a two month pause.  It was later discovered, and no surprise to us here at the POW Warrior, that while all other family groups respected the pause that the Secretary requested, someone else was meeting with government officials laying the groundwork for a third reorganization team that would be introduced in January.

After the fact this letter, dated December 11, 2014,was circulated which clearly shows that while the majority took the Secretary at his word, others along with the VSOs were undermining all of the good work that had been done to date because it wasn’t to the liking of one individual.

Add to all of this the announcement of Secretary Hagel’s resignation in late November and our missing men never truly had a chance.  Marginalized again.

The government is too blind to see that they have spent the past 40 years listening to just one person.  In our minds, there is no coincidence that the wake of dysfunction coincides with this myopic perspective on the part of the DoD.

(Stay tuned for Part III and IV in the coming days)

The Reorganization that Never Was … Part I

This article was written by and first published by POWwarrior.  It is reprinted here by permission.

The Reorganization that Never Was … Part I


ASD Michael Lumpkin

We were all chatting last night and discussing the complete fiasco that has become this so-called “reorganization.”  Clearly all of the promises made in the early stages of the reorganization, particularly under Michael Lumpkin, DASD for SO/LIC (Special Operations/Low Intensity Conflicts) were strategic in nature.  Or, at least that is how it has played out.  We would like to think that Lumpkin, a former Navy Seal, took his role in the reorganization to heart.  Based on what we experienced both individually and collectively, we think he did.  It was those that followed Lumpkin in January of this year who refused to “keep the promise.”

These were some of the more poignant quotes from Mr. Lumpkin’s June 12, 2014 comments during the Annual Briefings for Vietnam Families in Washington, DC with regard to the reorganization. (Taken from the website for the National League of POW/MIA Families.)

“Our Service members’ lives are valued and their families our focus.”

“We are working to change the culture and processes that guide our workforce.”

“… a balanced and more family-centric approach, improved access to information will be the bedrock of the process and cultural for this new agency.”

“I look forward to developing a new way of working that is realistic, dynamic and responsive.”

“We’d like the voice of our missing personnel families to shape and inform our process for the future.”

“I want to ensure every stakeholder is aware of our intent, and an active participant in this change-process and feels empowered to provide feedback.”

“ … the goal of all of the officials you’ll hear from today is to bring an end to talk about the government being unresponsive.”

A few weeks later, before the House Armed Services Committee’s Military Personnel Subcommittee, Mr. Lumpkin shared similar sentiments to Congress. (Taken from the Military Personnel Subcommittee’s website.)

“Their families  are our focus, and better service to those families is our goal.”

“The Secretary’s decisions to change how the Department conducts personnel accounting addresses deficiencies in process, workplace culture and organizational structure.”

“The decisions are based on dispassionate analytical assessments and informed by feedback from families and Congress.”

“The Director of the new Defense Agency, in coordination with the SCOs, will develop guidance that details roles and responsibilities to ensure, responsive, timely and transparent communication with the families.”

“All external communication with families, VSOs, concerned citizens and the public will be robust and two-way.”

Now the question is, how much of these promises made specifically to families have been part of this reorganization?

Since Admiral Franken, LTG (ret) Linnington, DASD René Bardorf and former JPAC leader Commander McKeague took charge of the reorganization in January of 2015, families were categorically put at arm’s length and “robust and two-way” communication as well as being “an active participant in this change-process” were thrown out the window.  The promise of feeling, “empowered to provide feedback” is now sadly, laughable.

Weekly conference calls became one-way with DoD personnel telling stakeholders what they had done, were doing and their travel plans.  One the first call, when leaders of family groups attempted to question rationale for decisions made without their input and attempted to provide feedback, they were quickly removed from the calls, told they could no longer participate until their attitude changed.  The remaining stakeholders still on the calls learned quickly from this initial call that these weekly events were nothing more than an exercise, allowing the DoD to report back to Congress that they were working closely with stakeholders.

This became an underlying theme in everything that the DoD has done in the past eight months; showing more concern for appearances than substance.

To quote the ever-poignant 1991 resignation letter of former Chief of the Special Office for POW/MIAs:

  “…the tawdry illusion of progress”

A Hero Finally Laid to Rest

Private Arthur H. “Bud” Kelder was laid to rest with his family on July 18, 2015







Patriot Guard Riders provided final honors.


























The Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart, Good Conduct Medal, Prisoner of War Medal and World War II Campaign awards were presented.







Pipers from the Chicago Fire Department piped Bud home with his family.

Funeral10 Funeral9 Funeral4














Rev. Lesley Weir conducted the graveside service.

WWII Army Pvt. Arthur “Bud” Kelder, home, finally, after 73 years

From the Chicago Sun-Times
Written By Maureen O’Donnell Posted: 07/17/2015, 12:00pm

Pvt. Bud Kelder’s last letters to his parents are heartbreaking.

The Schurz High School graduate volunteered for the Army before the United States entered World War II. He was stationed in the Philippines during the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor. Within hours, Japanese forces invaded the islands.

He wrote to his worried parents in Norwood Park on Chicago’s Northwest Side, assuring them he was getting plenty to eat and lots of rest and that he’d be home soon to start a business with his father.

Actually, the soldiers were getting only a small amount of rations, and the hospital where he worked as a dental technician had been moved under the jungle canopy in hopes of shielding it against Japanese shelling, according to his cousin, Ron Kelder.

Read more

Home At Last

WWII soldier’s remains returned to family 73 years after death

WWII soldier's remains returned to family 73 years after death

The remains of a soldier who died in World War II were finally returned to his family in Chicago 73 years after his death.

Army Private Arthur “Bud” Kelder grew up in the city’s Norwood Park neighborhood.

Japanese forces caught him in the Philippines. He died in a POW camp in 1942. He was buried in a mass grave. It took years for him to be identified.

Private Kelder’s remains arrived at O’Hare International Airport Thursday morning. The Patriot Guard served as escort as his family took the remains to a funeral home in Chicago.

Returning Private Kelder: WWII POW’s Body To Come Home

Posted: Thursday, July 9, 2015 9:00 am

As the United States and Illinois communities prepare to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, the family of one area soldier has received the news that the remains of Private Arthur Herman “Buddy” Kelder will be coming home July 18, finally.

For over 70 years, since they learned Buddy had died in a prisoner of war camp in the Philippines, his Kelder kin have been trying to get the United States military to identify and return him to Chicago. His 99th birthday would have been June 18 this year.

The Kelder family had settled in the 1890s in the Norwood Park community of Chicago, where his grandfather Herman P. Kelder, his father (also Herman) and most of his uncles had worked as commission brokers in the produce business.

Grandfather Herman was known as “The Celery King” of the South Water Street Market in Chicago.

Buddy graduated from Schurz High School in 1935 and began working in the family business, while his brother Herman became a local dentist.

For several years in the late 1930s, Buddy ran his own fruit and vegetable shop in the block south of the Pickwick Theatre in Park Ridge, offering the service of a freezer to families who didn’t have one of their own.

He had just started in business with a cousin, running a hamburger stand in Crystal Lake, when he entered the U,S, Army and was sent overseas.

He was assigned as an ambulance driver for Sternberg General Hospital in Manila, when the city was attacked by the Japanese, shortly after Pearl Harbor.

They evacuated the hospital patients into the jungle, setting up 7,000 beds under the canopies of trees as the Second Hospital Corps. His unit was subsequently captured by the Japanese.

Kelder was first imprisoned in the O’Donnell Prison Camp. He was forced to participate in the Bataan death march, and eventually was held at Cabanatuan, another prison of war camp operated by the Japanses military. Over 2,600 prisoners died there, including Private Kelder, apparently in 1942.

His apparent cause of death was malnutrition. Word of his fate reached Norwood Park in July 1943.

His parents wrote many letters to the United States government to find out what had happened to Buddy’s body.

The last letter they received from him, written before he was captured, had indicated he was managing, getting plenty of sleep and adequate food, but he apparently was putting on a brave face to avoid worrying his mother. His cousins have learned his unit was receiving only about a third of their normal rations before the capture.

The American government continued, for decades, through three other major wars, to deny it knew anything.

At the prison camp, however, the survivors had looked out for their comrades, burying the bodied themselves, documented with meticulous records.

The family knew that Dr. Herman Kelder had done dental work for Buddy, including a gold inlay before he went overseas. The inlay was still there when Buddy was buried the first time, they learned, but it went missing when the American cemetery workers took charge when his body was moved.

Buddy’s body was exhumed and re-interred several times by the American military, eventually deposited in a different mass grave at the Manilla American Cemetery by the American Battle Monuments Commission.

His cousins have learned that, while the bodies were identified as “unknown,” the government continued to know exactly where Buddy was buried. Buddy’s parents and brother died, with no closure. The agency specifically assigned to identify remains of American military personnel continued to refuse to help.

Advances in DNA testing and recent declassification of older military records offered Buddy’s surviving relatives a new chance to pursue the search for Buddy about five years ago.

John Eakins, a cousin in Texas, pursued the government and eventually sued the United States, which got their attention. Nephew Doug Kelder, Dr. Kelder’s son, represented the family as next of kin. Relatives of the other men interred in the same grave were also interested in identifying their relatives.

Ron Kelder, a cousin from Bolingbrook, provided a DNA sample from the male side of the family. Cousins on Buddy’s mother’s side, from DeMotte, IN, did the same.

Ron Kelder was interviewed by Chicago’s Fox 32 TV last fall in one of the efforts to get a response from the government.

Since the end of 2014 the family has had confirmation that some of the remains retrieved at the Manila cemetery grave have been confirmed as Kelder’s and isolated.

Then everything stalled again.

It took Congressional help to jumpstart the final stage of the journey.

In recognition of the U.S. government’s lack of help for all these years, the family requested that the U.S. military not be included in the ceremonies.

Other organizations will honor Private Kelder however.

There will be an opportunity to acknowledge Private Kelder’s service. The Philippine consul general’s office is sending an official representative to deliver Kelder’s military medals and honors for his service in the Philippines. Kelder’s family will also, finally, receive recognition of the many American military honors, including the Bronze Star and Purple Heart, which his service earned him.

Private Arthur “Buddy” Kelder ran a Park Ridge produce store in the late 1930s before military service took him to the Philippines in World War II.

Buddy Boy


The Chicago Fire Department will wash the landing field as the plane arrives at O’Hare International Airport. Kelder’s coffin will be the first to leave the plane.

The Patriot Guard, a motorcycle honor guard of veterans, will escort the coffin on its journeys. Fox 32 Chicago and its sister station in Minneapolis, and National Public Radio, will be among news media at the event.

A memorial service will be held at 1:30 p.m. July 18 at the M.J. Suerth Funeral Home, 6754 N. Northwest Hwy., Chicago, followed by a procession to Union Ridge Cemetery, Higgins and Talcott, Chicago, where Buddy’s parents and many other relatives are buried.

Family members are planning to attend from all over the country for the ceremony. Unlike earlier Kelder generations who grew up close together, many of these relatives have never met.

Most of them are too young to have ever met their cousin Buddy. Family genealogy efforts researching Buddy’s connections have brought them together.