As of last Friday, 81,526 Americans remain missing or imprisoned after serving during World War II and other major military conflicts until the present day, according to the U.S. Department of Defense’s POW and MIA Accounting Agency.
During a Sept. 16 program at Veterans Memorial Park, members from the Veterans Affairs of Dawson County and cadets from the high school’s JROTC joined other locals in honoring U.S. military prisoners of war and those still missing in action.
Since 1979, National POW/MIA Recognition Day has been observed on the third Friday of each September to honor those military service members.
During the event, Dawson County High School JROTC cadets replaced the National League of POW/MIA Families’ black-and-white silhouette flag that has become synonymous with remembering POW and MIA service members.
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JROTC teacher Maj. (R) Robert Wiley, who also serves as the VADC president, shared some sobering statistics with Friday’s attendees.
Of the service members who remain unaccounted for, 1,582 of them served during the Vietnam War, and 28 from those missing are Georgians. The DCHS JROTC cadets rang a bell and read the names of each of those missing service members.
With the easing of pandemic-related restrictions, the National League of POW/MIA Families stated that U.S. diplomats hope to resume POW/MIA accounting and recovery activities with Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia in the near future.
DCHS cadet Maj. Trinity Brooks described the intricate “missing man table” that serves as a poignant reminder of the military members who have not come home, either because they are fallen, imprisoned or missing.
A seat stayed empty, and an inverted glass stayed unclaimed. The table was draped with a white cloth to represent the purity of those service members’ intentions to heed America’s call to serve. Cadets added table top flags for each military branch.
Brooks lit a lone candle to stand for those imprisoned who are trying to stand up to their oppressors and reminded attendees of the plated lemon slice, which represented the missing’s bitter fates.
A rose served as a reminder of the POW/MIA families faithfully waiting for their military loved ones to return home, and a pinch of salt stood for the tears of the missing and their families who continue seeking answers. A faded photograph was placed to show how those service members are “greatly missed” and “always remembered” by their families, Brooks added.
VADC Vice President and Dawson County Junior High School JROTC teacher Sfc. (R) Steve Pamplin recited the POW/MIA prayer, asking for comfort, courage and strength in the accounting and recovery of missing military service members.
“Remember those who we depend on in battle and now depend on us to bring them home,” Brooks said at the table. “Remember our friends and loved ones who love life and freedom as we do and sacrifice so much for us. They will remember what we do. Please remember them, so they will never be forgotten.”