The flag says, “You are not forgotten.”
Yet, I forgot. Maybe it was because the day coincided with the Air Force’s birthday; maybe it was because it doesn’t fall on the same day every year. But maybe it was because I wasn’t paying attention. And that would be a tragedy.
National POW/MIA Recognition Day is held on the third Friday in September each year, and in 2009 the day of commemoration was last Friday. According to the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia, the day is not intended to be a day of mourning. Rather, “America’s POW/MIAs should be honored and recognized, rather than memorialized, with the focus on the need to account as fully as possible for those still missing, alive or dead.”
The National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia is the most vocal advocate group for locating, identifying remains, and searching for missing servicemen and women because there are still 1,731 men and women who have not yet been accounted for from the Vietnam War.
But there are others.
According to the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office (DPMO), the government office responsible for, “…oversight of the policies on the rescue of live Americans and the recovery and identification of the remains of those who never returned from foreign battlefields,” there are still many missing Americans from wars dating back to World War II.
Those who are still missing or unaccounted for (stats provided by DPMO):
WWII: More than 78,000
Korea: More than 8,100
Cold War: 125
Gulf War: 0 (remains of CAPT Speicer, the last MIA, were recovered in Aug 2009)
DPMO provides strategic guidance and diplomatic support, while the the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) acts as its operational arm, visiting countries all over the world to find our missing troops and bring them home.
The most important thing for us to do is remember. The families of almost 90,000 Americans still do not know what happened to their loved ones, and until they do, we must continue the effort to find the men and women who never came home.
And we must ensure that they are not forgotten.