70 Years Not Forgotten: The independent study reflection locating the last known whereabouts of Volk
On June 8, 2021, the interactive investigative capstone journey at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater began seeking the last known whereabouts and location of 1st Lt. Jerome A. Volk. Volk’s investigation started out as a crowdsource collaboration at the Whitewater campus through an ad with the university press.
The ad began the call to action for the POW MIA and recognition of the 70th year of Volk’s disappearance.
The purpose of the investigation sought the retrieval of documented archive regarding Volk’s last flight on a bombing run in North Korea for an interactive journalism capstone project, which incorporated records into a public affairs feature examining documents through slide show presentation on YouTube.
The slide show interacts with a future monumental display offering historical narration through flow code interaction narrated by Volk’s niece, Jeri Volk-Barry, who maintains the public relations duties with her uncle’s namesake at Volk Airfield.
“I speak to you today as a family member of a Wisconsin MIA whose remains have never been repatriated,” the words shared by Volk’s niece advocating for his return with her address to senators at public hearings. “I was named after my uncle, 1st Lt. Jerome A. Volk, who was killed during a low-level bombing run on November 7, 1951.”
The interview with Volk-Barry took place at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Biotechnology Center. Volk-Barry has a deep connection to the University of Wisconsin Missing-in-action Recovery and Identification Project’s President Charles Konsitzke.
Both obliged interviews providing in-depth information regarding the UW MIA Project’s success and current mission surveying an MIA’s location in Belgium.
“No one should underestimate the pain of not having closure,” Volk-Barry said. Her family witnessed her father mourn and grieve endlessly his entire life, which robbed his ability to recover.
The investigation wrapped up on May 6, 2022, followed by a revelation after our interview. Konsitzke began working with the university developing a cold case binder with her uncle’s information collected from the Wisconsin Air National Guard.
Both UW Whitewater and UW Madison have connected with the director of the Department POW MIA Accounting Agency notifying the director both campuses are profiling the last known whereabouts of Volk and his MIA profile from the interactive class project.
“When I started the project in 2015, we started working with cases and a family member approached us,” Konisitzke said sharing his mission’s history. “A family member approached us by the name of Jeri Volk-Barry. There was that ‘aha’ moment when she informed us that Jerome Volk was her uncle and missing.”
70 Years Not Forgotten
Volk served with the Wisconsin Air National Guard, who took a death-defying leap and re-entered service as a P-51 Mustang pilot while attending Marquette University.
According to information gathered and provided by the Wisconsin Air National Guard, “Volk volunteered for training at Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, Nevada, where Skunkworks launched the F-80 Shooting Star after World War II in 1943.” Volk’s last flight with the 35th Fighter-Bomber Squadron recorded his plane shot down by enemy artillery fire on November 7, 1951. November 7, 2021 marks his 70th year still missing.
The purpose of the investigation sought the development of a business concept called “social responsibility,” which doubled as a team building project and PSA called “I Will Not Forget.” The following recalling of events witnessed many public figures “playing politics,”according to an interview with Dept. of Finance Secretary Peter Barca (D-Burlington), with the POW MIA issue during the 2021-2023 session.
Prior to the Barca interview, the first interview revealed the connection between a senator doubling as the Truax Airfield public relations officer, the niece of the missing pilot and the director of the project listed on the bill connected through the senator’s district.
Upon contacting Maj. Eric Dunford, program manager for Volk airfield, the name drop of Volk’s niece was mentioned. Jeri Volk-Barry, of the 43rd Senate District, backed a bill authored by her senator, Roger Roth (R-WI), that would allocate $360,000-worth of state funding to a program that located three MIAs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
The most common denominator amongst POW MIA advocates throughout the investigation shared their primary purpose—bringing closure to families through the repatriation of remains.
The crowdfund search began in September of 2021, where an ad was placed with the Royal Purple, who wrote a piece regarding the search efforts at Outpost 422, which is an ongoing journalism class project searching for the lost on campus.
The Senate Bill 602 Capstone 486 Investigation
The debate over politicizing the POW MIA issue revealed Rep. Jim Steinke (R-5th District Assembly Leader) and Assembly Majority Leader Robin Vos (R-Assembly Speaker) withheld the opportunity for legislative approval. The two ranking members serve on the joint committee on finance for the state.
Upon interview request with the governor, two members of his cabinet came forward sharing their perspective regarding the decision for denial of the bill. The bill received bipartisan support, yet the bill did not pass. The investigation provided insight regarding the politicizing of the POW MIA issue during the election year.
“For the life of me, it’s difficult to understand,” Dept. of Finance Secretary Peter Barca said when asked why the bill did not pass. “Financially, we certainly have the resources. We have over a $2 billion surplus.”
The investigation retrieved records, flight logs and data from the Wisconsin Air National Guard, documents provided by the Volk family, along with several interviews. The first interview took place in Appleton, Wisconsin, at Sen. Roger Roth’s office, who noted he “doubles as a public affairs officer at the Truax Field Air National Guard Base.” Roth authored the bill who noted that “the Department POW MIA Accounting Agency is failing.”
The Next Phase of the “I Will Not Forget” Campaign
As POW MIA Recognition Day approaches, the lobby continues advocating for bringing home Volk. Outpost 422 “I Will Not Forget” campaign teams up with Jesse Schworck, Lion of Judah, House of Rastafari founder, building bridges for inclusivity by tabling annually at the University Center. The group helps those struggling with social isolation from the pandemic learn new methods for mindfulness grounding.
The Outpost 422 website works as a mandated reporter while the campaign develops workshops for those feeling left out find a group that supports them. The coverage of the fall 2022 semester reports through UW-W blogs as a federal lobby seeking Schworck’s ministry as a method of keeping the POW MIA memory alive. In closing, the journey unearthed Volk’s exact location.
The next phase of the journey will connect with the William S. Middleton Veterans Administration Hospital by building bridges for hope between veterans being discharged after mental health treatment in the University of Wisconsin system.
The POW MIA issue, through academic honors workshops, opens doors to new horizons by connecting both the veteran and their families with hope, tranquility and mindfulness public affairs creative non-fiction journaling preparing them for a career as professional writers contributing to the various blogs Schworck’s philanthropy chaplain sanctuary provides.