As the black and white banner symbolizing America’s missing in action and prisoners of war flew over the White House and the nation’s capitol, hundreds came together on Fort Rucker to honor those Soldiers, as well as their Families, during a day of remembrance.
The installation recognized this year’s National POW/MIA Recognition Day during a ceremony at Veterans Park Friday to honor not only those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to the nation, but all who have sacrificed in service, said Col. Robert C. Doerer, U.S. Army Aviation Center of Excellence chief of staff.
“This morning we are gathered to remember those who served our nation as heroes on a day that isn’t necessarily noted on everyone’s calendar, but it is a day that is noted in the hearts of hundreds of thousands of Americans who know a prisoner of war or service member still missing in action,” he said. “We commemorate (this day) by remembering the sacrifices made by brave Americans who were taken prisoner and returned, and we remember those heroes who went to war and never returned – their fate still unknown.”
Since World War I, more than 140,000 American Soldiers have been held as prisoners of war, two of which sat in the audience during the ceremony. Retired Lt. Col. Tom Stovall spent time as a POW in Nazi-occupied Poland during World War II, and retired Master Sgt. Arthur Osepchook spent 14 months as a POW when his plane went down over Berlin in World War II.
“It’s only by looking into the eyes of a former POW as you listen to their stories of capture and imprisonment that you can begin to imagine the full depth of passion and commitment these individuals have for our country and its principles,” said Doerer. “America’s POWs have gone far beyond their commitment and personal honor – they have given up their freedom so that we may enjoy ours.
“Then there are those who are still sacrificing, still waiting to return home – our missing in action,” he continued. “Our missing remain in our thoughts and prayers always, but especially on this day of reflection. Amid all the uncertainties of war, every Soldier is entitled to one certainty – that he or she will not be forgotten.”
The U.S. government goes to great lengths and makes it a high priority to make sure that it does what it can to make sure it’s Soldiers are accounted for, according to a proclamation issued by President Barack Obama.
“My administration remains dedicated to accounting as fully as possible for our nation’s missing heroes,” the proclamation read. “Whether they are gone for a day or for decades, their absence is felt. We will never give up our search for them, and we will continue to work to secure the release of our citizens who are unjustly detained abroad.”
“On this day, like on every day that passes without closure, the pain continues for many of the missing service members’ Families,” said Doerer. “There have been no homecomings and no peace for the questions that last a lifetime. To them, the term MIA is not merely an issue or a symbolic figure on a black and white flag – it is their loved one.”
As the ceremony came to a close, the chief of staff offered a quote by one of the nation’s founding fathers, Thomas Paine.
“These are the times that try men’s souls,” he quoted. “The summer Soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from service of his country. But he that stands it now deserves the love and thanks of men and women.”
Former prisoners of war and those still listed as missing in action, as well as their Families, deserve that love, said Doerer.
“We can never adequately express our gratitude to those who have served our nation as prisoners of war or to the Families who experienced such anguish during their separation, and to our missing and Families who still await their homecoming,” he said. “So long as Americans answer the call to fight for freedom and democracy, there will always be a sacrifice, both by those who answer the call and those who understand the calling.”
Posted in the Army Flier – September 25, 2014