NORTHVILLE – Roy F. Edwardsen, of Northville, has made it his lifes mission to search for the families of missing soldiers lost in the Vietnam War.
His mission began almost 40 years ago when he first applied for a bracelet to honor a random missing soldier and in support of the POW/MIA Network, an ongoing effort to find remains or whereabouts of lost service men during the war. He received the bracelet of with the name of Capt. Elton L. Perrine inscribed. While Mr. Edwardsen says he never met Mr. Perrine, hes carried the bracelet with him ever since.
I wore it for 38 years, he said. I said I would never take it off until he was found. I think of him every day.
Mr. Edwardsen, a police officer and major crime detective for 23 years, said he only took the bracelet off twice, while entering prisons for inmate interviews.
Mr. Edwardsens says it was his own year of service in Vietnam which compelled him to find a way to honor those that didnt make it back. Assigned to a former Navy bomber squadron on air craft carrier, Mr. Edwardsen served in Vietnam for one of his four years of service. After receiving the bracelet, he discovered he worked on jets much like the F-4C Phantom Air Force pilots Capt. Elton L. Perrine and First Lieutenant Kenneth F. Backus flew before it was shot down over North Vietnam on May 22, 1967.
When he began a search for more information surrounding Mr. Perrines disappearance, Mr. Edwardsens decided to contact Mr. Perrines family.
Back in the 90s, I was working in Rochester and working in Pyrenees, he said. I sent 11 letters to everybody with that name.
Mr. Perrines brother responded. Since then, the family updated Mr. Edwardsen on the news surrounding Mr. Perrines disappearance.
After further investigation, the POW/MIA Network discovered that Mr. Perrine and Mr. Backuss aircraft was struck down by enemy fire on a combat mission, and crashed near the city of Nam Dinh. Because of the probability that both men were ejected, they were both classified as Missing in Action. But when 591 American Prisoners of War were released in Operation Homecoming in the spring of 1973, Mr. Backus and Perrine were not. During the period they were missing, Elton L. Perrine was promoted to the rank of Colonel and Kenneth F. Backus was promoted to the rank of Captain.
Between 1999 and 2008, U.S.-Socialist Republic of Vietnam teams, led by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, further analyzed leads, interviewed villagers, conducted two surveys and four excavations. The teams recovered small pieces of aircraft wreckage, human remains, personal effects and life-support equipment from the four locations. In 2010, the remains were tested and proved to be belonging to Mr. Perrine. Mr. Backus remains were not found.
In 2010, the family notified Mr. Edwardsen. Soon after, Mr. Edwardsen attended the funeral for Mr. Perrine in Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia.
Now Mr. Edwardsen wears a bracelet for Mr. Perrines co-pilot, Mr. Backus. Mr. Edwardsen says he has very little details on Mr. Backus. The POW/MIA Network lists him as MIA/KIA (Missing in Action/Killed in Action).
Its very important to honor him, said Mr. Edwardsen. He was an American serviceman, and we dont leave anybody behind. Even if they can just find a fragment similar to what happened with Elton. At least there will be closure and he will get the burial that he deserves.
Mr. Edwardsen says he has submitted letters to families with the same name in Pyrites, but with little results. He said very little information can be found out about Mr. Backus.
He was married and his wife was pregnant, Mr. Edwardsen said. His wife left the area and remarried. I dont know where she went. He never met his son, because he was killed, as far as I know. But I dont remember how I found that information out.
Mr. Edwardsen said he would like to attend his funeral when he is found and share some words with Mr. Backuss family.
I would like to tell them someone has been thinking of him, he said. I would like to tell them there is still a chance. There is still hope.
For now, Mr. Edwardsen said he will still wear his bracelet until Mr. Backus can be found.
If anyone has any information, Mr. Edwardsen is asking them to contact him at Roy Edwardsen, 104 Edwardsen Rd, Northville , NY, 12134. He can be reached by phone at 518-863-8898, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.