This is the first in a series of stories on the plight of American POW-MIA’s.
Brad Hieatt is a man on a mission.
Hieatt, of Sevierville, is the Tennessee State Director of Task Force Omega, a 501(c)3 organization dedicated to educating the American public about the plight of nearly 100,000 American POW-MIA’s.
He takes his mission seriously. In fact, it has become the driving passion of his life.
“Somebody has to stand up for these men who have all but been forgotten by our government,” said Hieatt, “and it’s about time all of us stand up.
“Task Force Omega’s job is to make sure that our congressmen, senators, and the public do not forget the people who fought for us and gave us our rights, our freedoms, and our liberties.”
Hieatt, who served with the United States Marine Corps in Japan, spends countless hours each day on the telephone, pleading his case to any elected official who will listen. He also travels to schools, churches, and other gatherings – anywhere he is allowed a public forum – to speak on the issue that is so close to his heart.
“We’ll go to schools, churches, anywhere,” said Hieatt, “and talk about this issue. The right for people to sit in a church pew is because somebody died for it.
“And people don’t need to forget that.”
Heiatt, along with Task Force Omega members from five states, recently conducted a POW-MIA flag-raising ceremony at All American Pancake House in Pigeon Forge. It’s a task he gladly performs.
“If something as simple as putting up a flag brings recognition to our mission,” Hieatt said, “then we need to do it because we’re talking about thousands upon thousands of people here.”
In the state of Tennessee alone, there are still 40 soldiers who have not yet returned from their tour of duty in the Vietnam conflict.
“Originally there were 42,” said Hieatt, “but I assisted in the burial of one [Jerry Glen Bridges, of Columbia] who was returned in 2001, and another one [Gary Alven Glandon, of Powell], as I understand it, was returned by his family and buried in a private ceremony.”
These days, much of Hieatt’s time is spent on the phone with Tennessee’s congressmen, trying to rally support for legislation, pending in the United States House of Representatives, that would give our country more bargaining power in the release of our POW-MIA’s.
The bill, H.R. 402, sponsored by Rep. Dan Burton of Indiana, “express[es] the sense of the House of Representatives regarding the urgent need for freedom, democratic reform, and international monitoring of elections, human rights, and religious liberty in the Lao People’s Democratic Republic.”
Hieatt noted the legislation is tied to free trade rights, which would give the United States more clout in demanding the return of prisoners to this country.
While the task may seem daunting, Hieatt is up for the challenge.
“If we could get just one prisoner returned to the United States,” he said, “it would open up such a Pandora’s Box that people would be forced to pay attention to us.”
In future stories, The Herald will divulge information from Hieatt previously not released to the media.
“I want people to know what we know,” said Hieatt, “and I want The Herald to tell our story.”