North Thurston High students present Vietnam War MIA soldier's 92-year-old mother with award

OLYMPIA, Wash. – North Thurston High School students presented the 92-year-old mother of a former classmate missing in action during the Vietnam War with an award on Friday. The honor coincided with national POW MIA Day, something teachers have been recognizing for the past five years at the school.

“You have to remind people that you wouldn’t have your freedoms, you wouldn’t be free to do whatever you want, if it wasn’t for our people who are fighting for us,” said Judy Berg, the mother of Sgt. Bruce Berg, who was reported MIA in 1971.

“Of course, they come to your door to let you know at that time they were missing,” she said, remembering the day 46 years ago. Her youngest son, a loving, compassionate blonde 21-year-old was missing in Vietnam.

“They had dropped the team off in a place they didn’t realize was the main gas line that the Viet Cong’s were putting in,” she said. Reports state the young men her son was with were outnumbered 100 to one. Bruce was hit with a mortar, his body was never recovered.

“The tears are always there,” said Berg. “But, I know where he is, and if he’s with God in heaven, that’s great.”

The 92-year-old was reminded on Friday of her youngest son’s sacrifice by those she said she’d least expect, students from her son’s former high school.

“He was one of us, said North Thurston High Senior, Riley Hogle. “No one really supports the act of war…but you got to support the troops and the people that are involved,” he said.

Hogle said Friday’s ceremony was poignant. He’s considering serving in the Army or Navy after he graduates high school.  “A lot of the heroes in war are not really talked about that much and I think that Sergeant Bruce Berg is one of those people. I think that he’s one of many that haven’t been talked about that really need to be.”

For the last five years, every September 15, Norht Thurston students gather to honor and learn about prisoners of war and missing in action veterans. For PBIS coordinator, Joe Pallitto, the mission to teach students is personal.

“Yeah, I lost a friend over there, a very very good friend, I also lost a classmate,” said the former Vietnam War veteran. Pallitto wants students to know the sacrifice that paved the way for their freedoms.

“Now they are not only reading the history of POW MIA Day, but they are reading the history of a former North Thurston student,” he said.

Bruce Berg graduated North Thurston High School 50 years ago this spring. He is North Thurston High School’s only MIA soldier.