YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — The worried mother of a USS Kitty Hawk sailor is using the Internet to spread the word about her missing son because she doesn’t think the Navy is doing enough to find him.
Cherri Lee created MySpace pages in English and Japanese so people can see pictures of Navy Airman Kenneth Lee Jr. and contact her with information. The airman, 19, was reported missing April 16 when he didn’t show up for work aboard the Yokosuka-based aircraft carrier.
He is in “unauthorized absence” status and was officially declared a “deserter” on May 10, in accordance with Navy policy, said Kitty Hawk spokesman Lt. Bill Clinton.
Lee is believed to be in the Tokyo area with his Japanese girlfriend, Rika, Clinton said in an e-mail.
The ship put out the word to the airman’s shipmates and is working with base and local law enforcement officials to locate Lee and “encourage his voluntary return to a duty status,” Clinton said.
But that’s not enough, said Cherri Lee, who fears there may be more to her son’s disappearance than running off with his girlfriend. She questioned the inventory of her son’s belongings found in his barracks room, including his Navy identification card, a $1,300 uncashed check and a cell phone.
“Every instinct, every feeling is telling me something is wrong,” Cherri Lee said in a telephone interview from her home in Alabama.
She doubts Lee would desert the military, saying he comes from a family with generations of military service, including his father, grandfather, grandmother and three uncles.
“Kenneth did not decide to go into the Navy ill-informed,” she said of his 2005 enlistment.
She has been working through Alabama U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby’s office to find out more, she said. Shelby’s office got a response from the Assistant Administration Office of the Undersecretary of the Navy saying that nothing about the inventory of Lee’s things suggested foul play “of any type,” and that the airman had lost his identification card twice in the month he disappeared.
For her part, Cherri Lee said she hopes the military is right. But she is having “Have you seen me?” posters translated into Japanese and is calling area hospitals just in case, she said.
“I’m getting involved on my end,” she said. “I love that little boy and I don’t expect anyone to care about him like I do.”
For more information visit: www.myspace.com/findingkj.
The Kitty Hawk also is asking people to call Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka Security at DSN 243-5000 or NCIS at DSN 243-7535 with any information.