On Friday Sept. 17, the Veterans Affairs of Dawson County, with help from the Dawson County High School JROTC program, held a recognition ceremony at Veterans Memorial Park, honoring soldiers who were and are Prisoners of War (POW) and those Missing in Action (MIA).
Steve Pamplin, vice president of the Veteran’s Affairs of Dawson County and leader in the DCHS JROTC program, explained during the ceremony that the tradition of recognizing those past and present who have been prisoners of war or missing in action dates back decades.
“This day of recognition started back in 1979 when Congress signed a resolution; it was brought on by the over 2500 family members of Vietnam veterans who were either POW or MIA,” Pamplin said. “It’s a day to honor those who suffered as POWs in past conflicts and to also honor and remember those who are still missing in action and unaccounted for.”
During the ceremony, Veterans Affairs of Dawson County President Don Brown gave a POW/MIA report to those in attendance, reading off the sobering numbers of U.S. military personnel that have been or still are missing in action.
“World War II left us with almost 73,000 missing in action, the Korean War left us with 7,500 plus missing in action, Vietnam, almost 1,600 missing in action, and recent conflicts have left us with a few hundred missing in action,” Brown said. “This is terrible — families do not know what happened to their loved ones, only that they are missing in action.”
Brown said that over 81,600 Americans remain missing from all of the previous wars, and that while organizations and government agencies are pouring a great deal of effort into locating them, there will never be true closure for the families of those missing until they are found.
“We’re here today to honor the families of those missing in action and the memories of those missing in action,” Brown said.
Following Brown’s report, members of the DCHS JROTC program presented the POW/MIA flag, raising it up next to the American flag on the flagpole. The students then read off the names of the 28 Georgians who are still missing in action from the Vietnam War, tolling a bell in salute of each name.
Members of the JROTC program then presented the “Missing Man Table”, a table set in honor of those missing in action. The students explained the symbolism of each item on the table, including a white tablecloth to symbolize the purity of the missing men and women’s intentions to protect their country, a single rose to symbolize the loved ones and families of those missing in action, a faded picture to symbolize how greatly missed those missing in action are, and salt to symbolize the tears of the families.
The ceremony ended with a benediction by Rob Wiley, member of the Veteran’s Affairs of Dawson County and leader in the DCHS JROTC program, who gave thanks for the sacrifice of those who have fought and continue to fight for our country and prayed for peace for the families of those still missing.
“We know most of those missing are now with you living in the glory of your kingdom; for those that still are fighting the fight we pray for their strength, courage and will to soldier on,” Wiley prayed in the ceremony. “We give thanks for the freedoms we enjoy because of their sacrifices… let us never forget our prisoners of war and those missing in action.”