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House Asks DOD to Help Bring Soldier Home

by Matthew Whittle (Duplin County, state legislature and congressional reporter), 6/13/07

As it turned out Tuesday, the support offered by the North Carolina House wasn't necessary to convince the U.S. Army to send a recovery team to Cambodia to search for and bring home the remains of U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Joseph Hargrove -- his cousin Cary Turner had learned about two weeks ago that a mission was already being planned for early 2008, but it was an emotional event nonetheless. Watching the unanimous approval of the resolution with his brother, nephew and Hargrove's widow Gail Davis Hargrove, Turner said he was thankful for all of Rep. Russell Tucker's, D-Duplin, efforts. "Everything went well. Russell did an excellent job," said Turner, a Duplin County commissioner. "He got emotional (reading his request) and broke down for a second or two. "He definitely had his heart in it. And when Gail stood up to be recognized, the whole House stood up and applauded her and didn't stop until she sat down. It was real emotional." Joseph Hargrove was left behind on the Cambodian island of Koh Tang in 1975 after the U.S. launched an assault to rescue the sailors of the U.S. merchant ship, the S.S. Mayaguez, who were taken hostage by the Khmer Rouge.

When it was discovered that the hostages had already been released, Hargrove, along with two other Marines, Pfc. Gary L. Hall and Pfc. Danny G. Marshall, was assigned to protect the retreating force's right flank. They were left behind because of a miscommunication on the battlefield. Troops did not return to rescue them because there was no evidence they had survived and such a mission was deemed too dangerous. Nearly 14 months later the three men were declared dead. In 1999, the graves of Hall and Marshall were identified and excavated. In 2001, Hargrove's grave was identified, but never excavated. Now, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) is planning to send a team back to Koh Tang in either January or February.

Turner said he's hoping the passage of this resolution, which urges the U.S. Department of Defense to bring Hargrove home, will be just one more weight behind his push to join that JPAC team. Already, he said, U.S. Reps. Walter Jones, R-North Carolina and Mike McIntyre, D-North Carolina, and U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Dole, R-North Carolina, and Richard Burr, R-North Carolina, are behind his request. It was Jones who wrote the original letter requesting that Turner be allowed to accompany the team. The request also has the blessing of the Hargrove family. "Everything's looking real good. It gives (that request) more clout," Turner said. "As the Pentagon sees more and more people and congressmen behind this, then maybe they'll look at it with a little more sympathy and honor the request made by the Hargrove family and Joseph's widow." The resolution will now go to the Senate for a vote on Thursday.

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