Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 970 honored the nation-wide POW/MIA Day of Remembrance last Friday at Veterans Memorial Park.
Veterans and locals gathered for a brief ceremony to pay respect to the soldiers who were once prisoners of war or who remain missing.
“This national ceremony calls on American citizens to remember the brave service of those who gave their lives for our country,” said Wayne Watkins, the Georgia State Council President for the Vietnam Veterans of America.
The names of 32 soldiers from Georgia, who still remain unaccounted for, were read aloud and prayed for. The veterans performed the annual changing of the flags, where the American flag and POW flag are taken down and new ones are put up.
“This is something that is personal to every Vietnam Veteran,” explained Watkins, who did two tours in Vietnam. “It’s one day out of the year that is solely geared toward Vietnam Veterans. The POW/MIA issue is something that is very near and dear to all of our hearts.”
Gunny Moore, president of Dawson County Chapter 970, delivered the opening remarks at the remembrance ceremony.
“All veterans and their families share in the awful knowledge and true understanding of the real cost of war,” said Moore, who did three tours in Vietnam. “Truly, the price of freedom is not free.”
Moore went on to note that 715 soldiers are still MIA (missing in action) from the Vietnam War. Out of those 715 soldiers, 440 of them have been declared unrecoverable because they were presumably lost at sea.
Moore also acknowledged the sacrifice of not only Vietnam Veterans, but of those soldiers who gave their lives during World War I, World War II and the Korean War.
“When you’re young, you feel like nothing bad can happen to you. But then you get older and wonder how on earth you survived. Anyone who has been over there has left a piece of themselves there. Even though we remember these men throughout the year, this is a day we set aside to publicly honor them and all they have done for our country,” said Moore.
After attendants sang “God Bless America,” prayed for the fallen soldiers and watched the changing of the flags as memorial wreaths were placed at the foot of the flagpole, the service closed with Rafael Picklesimer, a member of the Veteran’s Alliance, playing taps on his bugle.
The POW/MIA Day of Remembrance falls on the third Friday of September each year. All over the country, communities gather to remember the service of Vietnam soldiers. President George W. Bush released a statement to solidify this national day of remembrance.
“We honor the brave and patriotic Americans who were held as prisoners of war, and we remember those who are still missing in action. For their valor and selfless devotion to protect the country they love, our Nation owes them a debt we can never fully repay,” wrote the President in a Sept. 17 release.