A 24-hour Clinton Township POW/MIA vigil began Sept. 17 at Resurrection Cemetery. It featured remarks from Barbara Kalthof, the daughter of the late Donald “Digger” Odell. Odell was a POW in the Vietnam War for over five years.

A 24-hour Clinton Township POW/MIA vigil began Sept. 17 at Resurrection Cemetery. It featured remarks from Barbara Kalthof, the daughter of the late Donald “Digger” Odell. Odell was a POW in the Vietnam War for over five years.

Photo by Alex Szwarc


Special vigil held for POW/MIA Day

By: Alex Szwarc | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published September 22, 2021

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CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Sept. 17 was National Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Recognition Day.

In Clinton Township, that meant holding a POW/MIA vigil at Resurrection Cemetery. The vigil was held Sept. 17 and 18, conducted by Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 154.

The vigil honored all those taken as POWs from any conflict, and it was meant to call attention to those still MIA.

The reading of the 48 names of Michigan residents who are MIA from the Vietnam War were read every hour on the hour for the 24 hours of the vigil.

An opening ceremony the evening of Sept. 17 included remarks from Barbara Kalthof, the daughter of the late Donald “Digger” Odell. Odell died in 2020 and was a POW in Vietnam for over five years.   

Kalthof spoke about what life was like as a child, growing up with her father as a POW.

“I was six years old when my dad left,” she said. “My earliest memory of my dad was his bright orange flight suit.”

Odell was an Air Force fighter pilot who was shot down Oct. 17, 1967, near Hanoi.

Kalthof said for over two years, she and her family lived on the information that, of two planes sighted, one parachute was seen, rendering Odell MIA.

“We asked my mom a lot of questions, and she always answered our questions but never told us any more than we needed to know,” she said. “She felt we deserved to have a childhood of fun and laughter, not worrying if dad was being tortured every day.”

Kalthof shared the story, as told by her father, of when he was taken to a Vietnamese village soon after his capture.

“The villagers would line up, and the prisoner had to walk down a line with rocks and spears being thrown,” she said. “When he got to the end of the line, he tripped and fell. He could feel something on his neck. Something was burning and dripping. He realized someone was trying to cut his head off.”

She said a Vietnamese soldier took the butt of his rifle, knocking her dad on his neck and breaking it.   

“The U.S. Department of Defense lists two MIAs from Operation Desert Storm; three DoD contractors in Operation Iraqi Freedom; one pilot over Libya; 72,000 from World War II; 7,500 from the Korean War; and 1,584 from Vietnam,” a release states.

The vigil ended with the final reading of the names at 2 p.m. Sept. 18, followed by a rifle volley and taps.

Keith Edwards, a member of VVA 154, said the vigil has been held in Clinton Township since 1986.

“It’s important to remember that we have men and women who went to war and did not come back,” he said. “We don’t know their status. Normally, if a military member is killed in action, they get a visit from officials and are told their loved one has been killed in action.”

He noted that family and friends don’t know what has happened to their loved ones, and it’s humanity’s obligation to remember the fallen, ensuring they are not forgotten.

Prior to the ceremony, VVA 154 member and scholarship chairman Dave Rocco said the sad part is there are soldiers still missing and families don’t know their whereabouts.

“We hold this vigil so people don’t forget that we have missing men in Vietnam,” he said.

Rocco served in the Army from 1965-1967 and was in Vietnam for one year. He was part of the 25th Division, operating as a cannoneer on a 105 mm howitzer. 

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