Unsolved Mysteries of the World
The Mission is Off
Welcome to Unsolved Mysteries of the World Season Six Episode Eight The Mission is Off
Justin Burgwinkel joined the U.S. Army in the summer of 1990 in hopes of making it into the 75th Ranger Regiment – the Army Rangers, an elite force of the Special Operations Command. He scored high on his army tests and immersed himself in language training with a specialty in the Korean language.
While stationed in Fort Ord in Monterey, California, he met Iolanda, a computer science student at Santa Clara University, while on a weekend pass. The two immediately hit it off and started seeing each other quiet often, Justin making the 80 mile drive just to have lunch.
Iolanda started noticing something strange about Justin, however, and she thought he may be leading a double life. Justin would stop in the middle of a conversation or intimate moment and look at his watch and say he had to go and that he needed to meet someone about something. He told her the people were in Monteray, but he said he could not tell her anything more and told her it was a secret.
After three years at Ford Ord, Justin was transferred to Fort Lewis in Washington State. Justin was heartbroken but promised to visit Iolanda when he could and it was nearly two months later that he received his first weekend pass.
Justin drove down to meet with Iolonda but she noticed he was acting even more peculiar than ever. Justin was carrying around a briefcase with him, and told her he could not reveal its contents because it was part of the secret and the meetings he had with the people previous. In one odd encounter, Justin was seen ripping up papers from the briefcase into tiny little pieces.
Iolonda did not question it but then she found Justin sitting on the floor of her living room sobbing uncontrollably. He did not want to talk about what was bugging him, wiped his tears and told her they should go out for dinner.
The next day Iolonda received a strange phone call. It was short and made no sense to her and she assumed it was intended for Justin.
“The Mission is off” - but when Iolanda asked who it was the person on the other end simply said, “Tell him the mission is off.”
The phone call ended. Iolonda relayed the message to Justin but he reacted badly. He raised his arms in the air and shouted “Damn it! Damn it! Damn it!” over and over again. When Iolonda tried to ask him what this was all about he said, “You don't want to know.”
On route back to Fort Lewis he stopped and purchased two handguns and a large quantity of ammunition. He then turned around and went back to Iolonda's apartment and there remained AWOL – or absent without leave – a huge black mark on his Army career. This would most certainly disqualify him for entering the Army Rangers.
Iolonda convinced Justin to call his parents who told him he should in the very least call the base. After ending the call with his parents, Justin called Fort Lewis and told them he would return. Iolanda was very concerned with Justin's behaviour and she pressed him as she had never done so before to get answers from him.
He told her to watch a movie called White Sands and that would explain a lot. He would not say any more about the matter explaining he did not want to get her in trouble. The movie White Sands is a suspense movie centering around international gun smuggling and the CIA.
The next day, Justin did not go back to Fort Lewis but instead walked out of her apartment. He did not say where he was going or what he was doing. It was the last time Iolonda or anyone reported seeing him.
Three months passed by and finally police found Justin's vehicle in an isolated beach front motel's parking lot. The motel did not remember Justin registering for a room. The car was searched but the two handguns and the ammunition was missing. In the trunk was the briefcase Justin carried around, but it was empty. His wallet and dog tags were on the passenger seat. The doors unlocked.
Iolonda remembers a conversation she had with Justin months previous in which he said if she ever found his dog tags and not his body, she should presume he is dead.
Justin was never seen again and his body, if dead, was never recovered.
His family does not know he was part of some international gun smuggling ring and don't know if things turned sour on Justin. Iolanda speculates that maybe he was suffering from some mental breakdown and believed he was part of some Hollywood movie plot.
Further research suggests that Justin Burgwinkle perhaps was passed over for the Army Rangers due to a shoplifting charge he acquired earlier and combined with his AWOL infraction his dreams of becoming a Ranger were squashed. He could not have liked that is entire Army career up to this point reached its pinnacle – he was simply a line cook in the Army. The pressure of knowing your life long dreams are dead perhaps caused Justin to react strangely and some believe he committed suicide and his body has yet been recovered.
Justin Burgwinkel was 21 years old when he went missing in 1993. He is 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighed approximately 175 pounds around the time he went missing. He has brown hair and brown eyes. If you have any information about the whereabouts of Justin Burgwinkel, contact the Monterey Police Department at 831-646-3830.
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