Updated: 05/17/2014 6:34 PM
Created: 05/17/2014 5:26 PM KSTP.com
By: Josh Rosenthal
About 200 military families from across the Midwest traveled to Minnesota on Saturday to search for answers.
Their loved ones are among the thousands of Americans to serve their country but never return home.
The Department of Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office gives updates in larger communities across the country. This year, it hosted the families at Embassy Suites Minneapolis Airport on Saturday afternoon.
Pat Ridgely, who is from Minnesota, came to get an update on the search for his uncle, a pilot who was shot down while flying his last mission in WWII.
"I'm hopeful, I'm not necessarily optimistic after all these years, but the fact that the remains do keep getting found is a reason to hang in there," said Ridgely.
Randy Chinn has been hanging in there a long time, too. His father deployed for the Korean War when Chinn was just one year old. He never made it back.
"Not one Christmas was spent with him, not a birthday, or a Father's Day," Chinn said. "It was tough."
At the very least, the briefing gave people like Ridgely and Chinn a little bit of hope.
They received packets of information summarizing what the government knows about their family member's disappearance.
"Camp five in North Korea is where he apparently passed away," Chinn explained while leafing through his packet. "It makes you feel great because at least you knew what happened."
Family members also gave DNA samples. Then, if human remains are found, investigators can check that DNA against the sample.
Also, there's the emotional impact of a gathering like this.
As Ridgely put it, "no two losses are the same, but in some ways there's a certain brotherhood or sisterhood I think of people who have lost loved ones in the same conflict, in the same area, roughly at the same time."
The program started back in 1995. According to the Department of Defense, they identify roughly 80 to 90 missing service members every year.