During the ceremony, Col. Samuel Anderson, garrison commander, explained that on POW/MIA Recognition Day, the nation honors both prisoners of war and those missing in action, and their families and relatives who have made sacrifices for the nation. He also recognized three former prisoners of war in attendance – two who served in World War II, and one who served during the Korean War.
“ Each year, the third Friday in September is set aside to honor the commitment and the sacrifices made by this nation’s prisoners of war and those who are still missing in action,” Anderson said. “We gather here today as a reminder that Americans remember our responsibility to stand behind those who serve our nation. And, on this day we recommit our resolve to do everything possible to account for our sons, daughters, and all those who have not returned, nor been returned to American soil.”
He briefly discussed the POW/ MIA flag and the symbols in it and then he gave an account of the number of service members still missing. “Our nation lost over 400,000 Americans serving in World War II,” Anderson explained. “At the end of the war, U.S. government officials were unable to recover, identify and bury approximately 79,000 service members. Through diligence that number has been decreased to approximately 73,000 Americans remaining unaccounted for.”
“There are still almost 8,000 missing from the Korean War; 126 missing from the cold war period between the closing days of World War II in 1945 until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989; and more than 1,600 still missing or unaccompanied for from the Vietnam War,” he said. “The wars of late carry significant fewer losses, but some are missing, and as mentioned, some are considered ‘captured’. The search for them continues – and when found, they are brought home. The words ‘You are not forgotten’ woven into the fabric of the POW/MIA flag are deliberate; they define our nation’s resolve to bring home our own.”
There are more than 1,000 active case files under investigation from areas throughout the world. About 74 POW MIAs are identified, on average, per year.
“To all our heroes still missing or unaccounted for… you are not forgotten,” Anderson said.
Wreaths were laid at the memorial, followed by a 21-gun salute, and the playing of “Taps”.
“It’s mainly for POWs and MIAs who served their country bravely,” William Kingsberry said, a former POW advocate of the Downtown Charlie Norwood VA Medical Center. “It’s great to honor them with this ceremony.”