The Reorganization That Never Was … Part III


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, or 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 – issued, interestingly enough, after three family groups were removed from the 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.

The Reorganization that Never Was … Part II

Former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel
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

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 Col. Millard A. Peck:

                                       “...the tawdry illusion of progress” 

Special Forces Reports on POW/MIA Reorganization


The Special Operation Forces Situation Report website, SOFREP, recently wrote an interesting article  on the reorganization of the POW/MIA accounting community into the newly formed DPAA (Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Accounting Agency).  While the article is available via subscription, someone was kind enough to send us the article in its entirety via email which you can find here in a PDF format.

We have several comments about this article that are worth stating here publicly.  First,  we are yawning over the “good vibes” that everyone wants to force-feed us about the “new energy and a renewed commitment” of the POW/MIA accounting community.  We’re sorry but how many times when we get a new director have we heard this?  As the article states, in the past 12 years we have had seven or eight directors.  This is no different than when your family expects you to get all excited over your cousin’s upcoming wedding – when it is her fourth one.

And Mr. Linnington thinks he is going to be around for 10 years?  The only hopes he has for staying that long is if Ann Mills Griffiths leaves this earth within the next three.  History has taught us that with every new director Ann gushes over him …until she disagrees with him.  Does the name Jerry Jennings ring a bell?  This is why people have always been critical of the DoD’s 40 years of fatal attraction with Ann Mills Griffiths.  She is the only one they work with and listen to and don’t think for a moment that family input is being sought on these wonderful conference calls with the DoD.  They are nothing more than window dressing so they can report back to Congress that there was family involvement.

As has been made clear by many of the other family groups, these calls are nothing more than press release journalism.  They are telling family groups what they have done and what they are doing, they are NOT keeping their promises made in the initial stages of 2014.   During the July 2014 congressional hearing with the House Armed Services Military Personnel Subcommittee Michael Lumkpkin, who was then the DoD’s lead person on the reorganization said, “We’d like the voice of our missing personnel families to shape and inform our process for the future.”

We are still waiting for this promise, as well as the others, to be kept.

The SOFREP article gives five focal points of the reorganization and the challenges of the new DPAA director, Michael Linnington.

1) Morale of the Workforce – While we as family members have been jerked around for the past 14 months, so has the workforce in both Hawaii and DC.  Often on a daily basis they have been told one thing and by the end of the week, things change yet again.  During the Annual Meetings many family members were told that little actual work has been done in the past 12 months because they were being pulled away for meeting after meeting about the reorganization.  DPAA is still unclear and indecisive on far too many aspects of the reorganization.  We at the POW Warrior are somewhat skeptical about the January 1, 2016 “fully operational” stand-up date.

2) Change WWII Priority – Clearly in direct correlation to the congressional mandate of 200 IDs annually, DPAA is putting all of their eggs in the WWII basket.  The point that needs to be made here is that DPAA immediate knew that WWII was going to be their treasure trove.  One has to ask that if they knew there were so many WWII remains ripe for the picking, WHY were these never cultivated or exhumed before the congressional mandate and reorganization?

3) Improve Communications – This comment takes a huge step back from all of the propaganda that Michael Lumpkin was sharing in the Spring of 2014 when the reorganization was first announced.  Families have become an after thought.  Their concerns of communication within DoD is the concern here, not the families.  So, the initial promise of improving how the new DPAA treats families has also been tossed.  One could wager that mountain was just too hard of a climb for a workforce who has had carte blanche to treat families as doormats for almost half a century.

4) Improve Vietnam Links – This is really nothing more than a red herring.  We have no leverage with Vietnam anymore, thanks to John Kerry and John McCain who worked overtime during their tenure with the 1992 Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs to bury the POW/MIA issue.  It is no coincidence that the following year both Kerry and McCain were present at the White House when then President Clinton announced the reestablishment of relations with Vietnam.  We have given Vietnam everything but the kitchen sink.  All of the talks and trips that some groups have taken to Vietnam are nothing more than public relation stunts for their membership and to get a little press.

5) Probe by war, not region – We have to ask how this change in focus is going to help with the numbers game. Separating a given case from the conflict that it came from just seems absurd.  While Vietnam would be a region in and of itself BUT, seriously DPAA, you are making us agree with Ann on this?  This idea needs to be rethought and we are confident that the folks at Research and Analysis will happily tell you that evaluating a case devoid of conflict and the political powder keg that is correlated to each conflict, Vietnam in particular, is risky business.

Sadly, DPAA is well behind where it should be in the reorganization process.  Many of the initial promises have fallen to the wayside or simply been ignored.  The DoD has floundered through this reorganization by passing the baton to three sets of people to oversee the reorganization.  What we will be left with will be a vague resemblance of what was promised yet the DoD will tout this as a victory because they control the message.

While we wait …

S 885: A Bad Idea

S 885

We have been having some lively discussion here at the POW Warrior about the recent announcement of Senate Bill 885 introduced in March of this year by Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).   The bill itself is very brief, summarized here:

National POW/MIA Remembrance Act of 2015

Directs the Architect of the Capitol to: (1) enter into an agreement to obtain a chair featuring the logo of the National League of POW/MIA Families, and (2) place it in the U.S. Capitol in a suitable permanent location within two years after enactment of this Act.”

While to many this may seem like a wonderful idea, we feel that this is nothing more than tokenism and subterfuge. Many factions of the POW/MIA community are pushing hard for this Act to be made into law and we have to ask the question, why?  Has Senator Warren been a stallworth supporter of our cause for decades?  Does she sit on any Senate committees that would be beneficial to us?  Does she plan on becoming our voice in the Senate?

The answer to all of these questions is “no.”  So, the next logical question is why would she sponsor such a bill if she has no history with our cause?  The answer is simple, she was preparing to run for the highest office in the land, she wanted to be our first female president.  This bill was a way for her to reach out to the masses and say, “I fought for a bill that would …”

We, collectively and individually, have been used, time and time again by those in Washington to fuel their reelection campaigns and insert themselves into an issue they know very little about simply because it looks good to their voters.  We are always a safe bet, who would dare (besides DPAA of course) mistreat, or disrespect a POW/MIA family member?  How many of us have gone to our representatives in Congress to get help with dealing with the DoD only to get either the run around or a half-baked effort to help us?  Publicly we are the golden calf, privately we are something they truly want to distance themselves from politically.

Look at Senators McCaskill and Ayotte.  Two years ago, they raked the then heads of DPMO and JPAC over the coals.  McCaskill was quoted as saying, “Get it freaking done!” and Ayotte, with her finger pointed across her name plate, told them, “Fix it, or we’ll fix it for you!”  Many of us cheered from our couches when these words were uttered.  Yet where were they as the reorganization turned into a mockery?  A source told us that while McCaskill’s office was well aware of the mess that was taking place, an aide alluded to the fact that they knew it was going to hell but that they didn’t have the power to tell the DoD how to do their job. In other words, they didn’t want to get involved.  Quite a 180-degree turn from the threats and finger-pointing when the cameras were rolling and the press were paying attention.

All of this, the sponsorship, the chair everything is nothing more than tokenism on the part of the very system that is supposed to be serving us.  We at the POW Warrior are sick and tired of groups who are more than willing to erect a memorial, organize a ceremony or hand out proclamations. We want politicians and veterans’ groups to get their hands dirty, to really learn the issue from the inside out, know why it is insane, for example, to have General (Ret.) Michael Linnington as the new head of DPAA.  His loyalties are not to the families or to the missing, they are specifically to himself and a one-way street to the DoD.  He was strategically placed on the third reorganization team so that he could take this post.  In fact, if you read the newsletter of one specific family group, you will see that he was recommended as part of the reorganization team by the only family group that the DoD has ever listened to.

We had to laugh at DASD Bardorf’s email today, announcing General Linnington at the new director of DPAA.

“As you know, he was also an advisor involved in all aspects of standing up the new agency.”

He has only been on board since January.  While a significant amount of work was done by Michael Lumpkin and the PACT, work which was heading in the right direction, much of that was thrown to the wayside because, as usual, someone wasn’t getting her way.

We at the POW Warrior want to see substantive insertion into the issue on the part of Congress.  We don’t need more memorials, wreaths or plaques, we need people who are going to act, people who are going to get involved long-term and help families get their loved ones home and correctly identified.  We are so over veterans’ groups who only get involved to a certain point and are afraid to step over a line. They would never put their membership in a bad light with the DoD or Congress.  If a veterans’ group had to choose between POW/MIAs and an issue that would help improve the lives of their card-carrying paid members, you know darn well that we will be left in the dust.

We need to get past the tokenism and the subterfuge and start to get real.

Man (or Woman) in the Mirror

The DOD’s Man in the Mirror

Yes, we know, it has been a while.  Our inbox has been hit hard with links to news stories and information that had been flooding in regarding the reorganization of the POW/MIA accounting agencies.  Things seemed to be moving in the right direction when Michael Lumpkin was the face of the reorganization, officially announced in March ’14.  All POW/MIA family organizations from all of the conflicts seemed to be poised and optimistic.

Even after the sudden change of direction in August/September when Lumpkin was replaced by Policy ASD Christine Wormouth.  The Personnel Accounting Consolidation Taskforce – PACT – seemed to pick up the ball and still headed in the right direction.  Then mistakes started to  happen.  Followed by all of the backdoor negotiating and backstabbing that some people are famous for, actually infamous.  On October 31st, according to news articles from both Stars and Stripes and more recently, the Honolulu Register, Secretary Hagel held a conference call asking for a break for his staff to make sure everything was headed in the right direction.  The two-week break became a two month break and then. out of left field, we got a whole new group of people to temporarily head the reorganization.

From reports and emails, this new group has decided to make the families the enemy.  They are reading group websites, checking non-profit statuses and playing Big Brother.  Then, if they find anything to their disliking, they are trampling on the 1st Amendment and tell families that they can’t be part of the process until they behave?

Well, here is a thought … We may have only skimmed the GAO report and read the beginning of the DOD’s Inspector General’s report but, we’re pretty sure that the phrase “highly dysfunctional” was used to describe the DOD, NOT the families or any family group.   We’re pretty sure that the questionable leadership outlined in these reports were within DPMO and JPAC, not the families.  In fact, the reports tasked you with improving relationships with the families and re-establishing trust.  You have done the complete opposite.

Why not start with the man or woman in the mirror, DOD?  Why not worry about your own house before you go looking for problems in someone else’s?  From what we have seen in the past, oh, 40 years – you have plenty there to keep you busy.   Is this how you fix what is broken in your own house?  Silencing your critics?  Ignoring the past?  Making families out to be the bad guys after decades of your own abuse?  And to what end?  To punish families further for wanting the truth about their missing loved one?  For expecting the DOD to keep its word and then holding your feet to the fire when you don’t?

You aren’t the victims here.

Maybe that is really the problem here – you don’t know how to fix your own problems …. so it is just easier to point out flaws in your victims.  Then blame your failure on us?

The National League of Families: In the Wake of the Storm …

We are sure many of you have noticed that the article we had published late last night was taken down early this morning.  The reason for it was simple, there is something hinky going on and because we are always very conscientious of the truth, we wanted to take a step back and try to make sense out of the chaos.  We still haven’t quite figured it all out but we felt we at least owed you an explanation.

To review the details of some of our earlier posts, present League board member Susie Stephens- Harvey had deceived the people of her community as well as League members claiming to be the sister of Army Staff Sergeant Stephen Geist who went missing in September of 1967.  In reality, Susie, who has been married at least three times, was first married to Stephen Geist’s brother Jeffery.  According to vital statistic records, their divorce was finalized in 1999.  At that point, Susie was no longer a legal family member to Stephen Geist.  Yet, Susie continued on with the charade of claiming to be SSG Geist’s sister, including doing regular interviews with local reporters telling tales of when her ‘brother’ left for Vietnam and how she found out he had gone missing.  (See details here)

In direct violation of League Bylaws, when Ann Mills-Griffiths, now Chairman of the Board of Directors of the League, was made aware of Susie’s actual status in the Geist case, she maintained that Susie could continue as a voting member and League Board member because, “The dissolution of their marriage did not result in Susie’s being disqualified as a voting League family member, nor has it since.”  Well, regardless of Ann’s statement, Susie Geist-Ragan-Stephens-Harvey is illegally sitting on the Board of Directors of the National League of Families.

The next question pertains to how Susie’s illegal status as a family member per League Bylaws affects her present husband, Allen Harvey’s status with the League.  Interestingly enough, once the POW Warrior blog made the POW/MIA Community aware of Susie’s illegal status, while Susie’s status as a voting member and Board member did not change.  Her husband Allen’s membership was downgraded to Associate Member we have been told.  Why wasn’t Susie’s?  Why wasn’t she removed from the Board?  Once again, AM-G is disregarding and circumventing League Bylaws to suit her own personal agenda.

In the fall of last year we put in a FOIA request for the military records for Allen Harvey to see if his story held up in light of Susie’s interesting past.  What we found was a bit less murky but still unclear.

It would appear that in a city of some 136,000 people, there are not only two Allen Harvey’s but each of them is married to a woman named Susan and each of these ladies go by the nickname “Susie” and that nickname is spelt the same way as well.  The coincidences do not end there.  Both couples appear to be in the same general age group, lived in the same neighborhoods, and at some point even on the same street but not necessarily at the same time.

The age we had for Allen Harvey was far too young to have served in Vietnam so we decided to look into it. When we initially sent in our FOIA request, the only Allen Harvey that we could find with a wife by the name of Susan at the same address was an Allen D. Harvey.  Additionally, they were the only Susan and Allen Harvey in Savannah who were listed as owning a home together in the Chatham County, Georgia Assessor’s Office database.

When we received the reply to the FOIA, it stated that there was not an Allen D. Harvey matching that address and other vital statistics that served in the Armed Forces.  When those results came back we did some more digging and the odd possibility that there were two Allen and Susan Harveys living in Savannah, Georgia presented itself.

Looking back, an article from 2008 listed Allen’s middle initial as “B” so we concluded that B and D could easily enough be mixed up so we sent another request in for records. We will know more in four to six weeks.

Recently we contacted the Vietnam Veterans of America, which Allen belongs to, to get their reaction to what we had found and surprisingly one of their officers in Georgia informed us that Allen’s middle initial wasn’t B or D but E.  Now if you access any of the people search engines that are online (we prefer, you will find that the only Allen E. Harvey in Georgia is listed as not being in Savannah and with an age of 55 – too young to have served during Vietnam.

As Alice said in Alice in Wonderland, “Curiouser and curiouser.”

We would like to encourage readers to go to the various people search sites and see for themselves the wide array of  Allen and Susan Harveys in Savannah, Georgia and Georgia in general.  One thing that did come to light as we expanded our search was that the residence that Susie has listed with the League is still under the name “Susan Stephens,” the name she used prior to marrying Allen.  This would explain why we only found one Allen and Susan Harvey in the real property records for their county – She never changed it over to her married name and Allen was never added to the deed.

It is our hope that Allen’s military records can be cleared up and we can confirm his military service.  While we prefer to deal in facts alone, in this case we have a gut feeling about Susie’s husband Allen.  As we shared in email correspondence with the VVA, it did occur to us at one point that Allen might have not been aware of his wife’s true lineage with regard to her connection to the Stephen Geist case.  We personally found it hard to believe that a Marine would knowingly go along with Susie’s charade as the sister of a MIA.

It is quite possible that Allen had been kept in the dark as much as we were.  If that is the case, Susie has left quite a wake in her path.

The Final Article: What a Tangled Web We Weave

Susan Stephens speaking at the Savannah 2011 Memorial Day Ceremony (Photo Courtesy of

As we have been highlighting over the past week or so, Susie/Susan Lowenthal-Geist-Ragan-Stephens-Harvey, a newly elected National League of Families (NLF) Board Member has two serious issues pending over her illegal status as a family member.  First, Ann Mills-Griffiths has knowingly allowed Susie to remain in a voting-right status as well as illegally run and subsequently hold a seat on the Board of the NLF.  AMG has made multiple arguments as to why Susie should remain in her new Board position as well as her illegal status as a family member- all of which are blatantly against NLF By-Laws.

Secondly, as we have documented in recent posts, Susie has also been portraying herself as a blood family member, the biological sister of US Army Special Forces SSG Stephen J. Geist.  Susie, in her first marriage, was married to SSG Geist’s brother, a marriage which dissolved sometime in the early 1990’s.  Susie has since remarried and divorced two more times and is presently married to husband No. 4, Allen Harvey.   Also as part of this imposture, Susie has also given the impression that she is much older than she truly is to add to the embellishment of her story as an MIA sister.

According to background checks and vital records, Susie was born in November 1959, making her approximately 51-year-old at the time of this posting.   As stated in previous articles, Susie would have been 8 years and 10 months old when SSG Geist went missing.  Keeping all of these vital statistics in mind, we would like to discuss, in detail, an article that appeared in The Frontline, the newspaper for Fort Stewart Army Post, located in Georgia, Susie’s present home state.

The article, dated September 4, 2008, tells Susie’s truly incredible story as the sister of one of the many men who never made it home.  You can read the article, in its entirety; Frontline 4 Sept 2008 News on MIA.   It starts out with a heart-wrenching story of a big brother who said good-bye to his then approximately 7 year-old sister as he left for Vietnam, “Sis, before I leave, I want you to know, if something happens to me, you cry for yourself.  Don’t cry for me because I am doing something I believe in and love.”

Based on her November 1959 date of birth, Susie was merely a child when SSG Geist left for Vietnam.  At that time she was certainly not yet his sister-in-law and obviously, not his biological sister.  In this article, Susie would like to give the readers the impression that she was in college at the time, which we know she could not have been; she was in elementary school.   Given her age, even if Stephen Geist had been a neighbor or family friend at the time, it is very hard to believe that a soldier of the magnitude of Special Forces would even think of saying something like that to a child.

Susie goes on to tell the reporter about the contents of the letters that Stephen sent home while in Vietnam.  It is quite possible that she had access to these letters at some point while she was married to Stephen’s brother. Yet, it is important to note that these were not letters sent to her but to Stephen’s biological family.

Next Susie tells of how the news arrived to “her parents” that Stephen never returned from his mission on September 26, 1967.  “My parents requested being told any bad news in person instead of receiving a letter or a phone call.  My mom saw the Army car come up with the chaplain and she knew instantly.”   As many of you know, at that time notices came via telegram and a few days later a local recruiter would come by the house to give the primary next of kin the details and what was being done to find the missing man.  There were no lists of choices that a family could pick from as to how they wanted to be notified.   Susie apparently chose to take advantage of the emotional imagery of men in uniform arriving at a family’s home.

Susie claims that in September of 1967 she was away from home in Pennsylvania attending college. (Remember, she would have only been 8 years-old at the time).  She spoke of the antiwar protests that were breaking out all over college campuses and details how an Army chaplain came to her dorm to tell her that her brother was missing.   Again, Susie shows her lack of knowledge of how a notification was handled in 1967.  If she had been Stephen’s sister, she would have never received the news from an Army chaplain, she was not the next-of-kin and it would have been the NOKs responsibility to notify the rest of the family of the situation.

Next Susie tells the reporter, “From then on I couldn’t go anywhere on campus without being singled out.”  Which is odd considering the fact that family members were routinely told to go on with life as usual and to share this information with no one because it could put their loved-one’s life in danger.  So, the idea that it was general knowledge on any college campus is again highly unlikely.   She tells of having been spit on and told to go back to Vietnam, take her parents with her and die because they were all baby killers.   Considering the fact that Susie wasn’t even in college at that time, this is one incredibly stereotypical tale to garner sympathy and admiration from the readers as well as the reporter.

It is worth mentioning again that this entire article is complete and utter fabrication.  Susie was not at college in 1967, she was a school girl just learning to read and write.  She never had a chaplain come to her dorm, she never experienced anti-war protesters in college nor was she ever singled out for being part of a POW/MIA family.  In all probability, at the age of 8, the name Geist meant nothing to her yet.  The part of her story that hit us here at The POW Warrior the hardest was the hoax of being spit on and told to go to Vietnam with her family and die with all the other baby killers. Feigning sentiments and events that others have truly experienced to pull at the heart-strings is, in a word, revolting.

While there are other aspects of this article that we would normally address; there is much more to discuss before closing the chapter on Susie for now.  Yet, most likely the ultimate slap in the face is Susie’s statement that she wants closure for her ‘brother’ by going on to say, “even if it is a jar of dirt.”  A jar of dirt?  Who among the families, from any war, would console themselves with simply dirt?  Who among us would accept DoD’s handling of a case in this manner?

Susie chatting with Sgt. Major Kenneth Preston, US Army at the 2009 Annual Meetings (Photo Courtesy of

Now that we have shown the true Susie/Susan Lowenthal-Geist-Ragan-Stephens-Harvey the question remains, why does Ann Mills-Griffiths value this individual so much?  We may have an answer to that question.  It has been interesting to us as we researched Susie’s story that she regularly makes reference to being the president of the Georgia Committee for POW/MIA, Inc.  This non-profit organization was started in 1986 by Joanne Shirley and JoAnn Shaw.  The controversial website,, was the only place where we could find anything substantive on this non-profit.  This site belongs to retired US Army Col.  Joe Schlatter, a former senior DIA POW/MIA analyst and past Deputy Director of DPMO.  Schlatter adamantly denies the mindset that anyone was ever left behind after the Vietnam War.

Its main objective is the return of, or accounting for, missing servicemen. It furthers its goal through public awareness activities and relies completely on volunteers to produce a newsletter, public addresses, slide presentations, ceremonies, and to meet with elected officials about the POW/MIA issue. Georgia Committee officers have made numerous appearances on television and radio, and have traveled extensively, at their own expense, to appear on behalf of the POW/MIA issue. In addition, the Georgia Committee maintains close ties with the National League of Families, and disseminates League information to its membership.Funding for the Georgia Committee comes from membership dues, from the sale of POW/MIA memorabilia (POW bracelets, T-shirts, flags, etc.) and donations. Its average annual budget is approximately $8,000.

This is where things caught our attention.  The Georgia Committee for POW/MIA, Inc. has no website, no contact information anywhere online, not even an email address or phone number.  Based on the description given above, one would think that this non-profit would have more to share with the public.   In fact, even with all of the mention of this organization in Susie’s 30+ online articles and references; in 2010 this organization reported to the IRS that it had zero dollars in revenue and zero dollars in expenses.   These dollar amounts are supported both here, here and here on website that report on the IRS statements of non-profits.  Additionally, the address that is submitted to the IRS is simply a PO Box – most likely at a UPS Store or something of that nature.  There is no information on line anywhere  directing interested parties where to send donations or even contact the organization’s officials.

Therefore, how does a non-profit survive with no revenue, no expenditures and no assets?  Why is it that whenever Susie posted anything anywhere she listed both her position with the Georgia Committee for POW/MIA, Inc. as well as with the National League of Families?  Many would consider this somewhat of a conflict of interest.   Yet here is where it gets curious.  Instead,the contact information for the NLF is  given along with the links to the NLF website.   Keeping in mind our “Follow The Money” post a few weeks back; Is it possible that Susie is simply re-directing potential funds for her Georgia Committee right back to the NLF?

Imagine the innocent scenario at one of the many public events that Susie attends where a Vietnam Vet asks how he can help the Georgia Committee. Susie directs him to the NLF instead stating that her organization gives the majority of their monies to the NLF and that it would simplify things if he made a direct donation to the League.   Does Susie put up a table for the Georgia Committee at these events with a donation jar and simply forwards that money on to AMG?  The possibilities are endless.

In closing, we would hope that NLF members are insisting that the By-Laws be followed based on their true meaning, that Susie Stephens-Harvey and her present husband Allen be put in their rightful place as associate members and that the motions from the 2011 Annual Meetings which the Harveys either initiated or seconded be stricken from the record.   Replacing Susie on the Board is a must as well, whether a new election is held or by sliding the last candidate into Susie’s slot – that is something the entire Board can decide.

We would also hope that the US Army Casualty Office is notified of Susie’s true status in relation to SSG Geist.   If there is indeed a Power of Attorney or a  Letter of Authorization (allowing her to represent SSG Geist’s family at meeting), we would hope that the Primary Next of Kin of SSG Geist be made aware of Susie’s charade and makes the necessary adjustments to any agreement that they may have with Susie.

We would also like to see the Board of the NLF give Ann Mills-Griffiths a stern caution with regard to her underhanded behavior keeping in mind that the organization’s reputation and public perception is paramount with regard to the NLF’s true mission. They also should remind her that the organization does not belong to her to use as her personal playground.  Instead, it belongs to the membership who has allowed her the privilege of serving them for over 30 years.  If the League were to lose their non-profit status over AMG’s refusal to address the Susie situation; the organization can be re-instated, yet without Ann having any role, either official or unofficial.

For now, we would like to put the Susie/Susan Lowenthal-Geist-Ragan-Stephens-Harvey story to rest.  We believe that we have shown her to be someone who has misused and abused the POW/MIA Issue for personal gratification and we sincerely hope that all of the NLF Board Members see fit to do the right thing.


Our next series of articles will appear in a few days.  In the meantime you can ask yourselves this question …

What do AMG, Richard Childress, Dr. Larry Ward, Bill Bell and Colin Powell have in common?  We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it!