News: Expeditionary wing remembers America’s POW/MIAs
Story by Senior Airman Bahja Jones
SOUTHWEST ASIA – Every year on the third Friday in September, military installations and ships, schools and churches throughout the nation pay tribute honoring the commitment and sacrifices made by prisoners of war as well as those who are still missing in action. It was no different at the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing here, when deployed U.S., mission and coalition partners observed the National POW/MIA Recognition Day Sept. 20 and 21.
“Today we remember and honor all those who have been held as prisoners of war or are still missing in action,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer Laura Johnston, the Combined Air and Space Operations Center Naval and Amphibious Liaison Element leading senior chief petty officer deployed from Fort George G. Meade, Md., and hails from Oklahoma City, Okla. “With more than 83,000 personnel still missing, we gather here to remember their sacrifices of hardships.”
In July 1979, the first national POW/MIA ceremony was held in Washington where the 1st Tactical Squadron from what is now Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., flew the Missing Man formation. Prior to that day, there had never been a national commemoration in honor of POW/MIAs. Now, through a presidential proclamation signed each year, National POW/MIA Recognition Day is observed annually, paying tribute to those who have given so much.
Stories of prisoners of war have influenced the lives and leadership of many including Col. Jennifer Fulmer, who shared with deployed service members when she first learned of the true sacrifices of POW/MIAs during an Air Force ROTC six-week camp.
“That summer, Col. Carrigan, Lt. Bruch and the character of the POWs and MIAs taught me the true meaning of duty, honor, [and] country,” said the 379th AEW vice commander and Wilton, Conn., native. “It’s important we never forget; that we continue to pursue the repatriation of America’s POWs and MIAs so that they may all return with honor.”
Following the opening ceremony, deployed troops participated in a 5K run with the American and POW/MIA flags in tow, kicking-off the 24-hour vigil run.
“Four hundred eighty personnel volunteered their time to participate in this event,” Johnston said. “The United States League of Families POW/MIA flag remained in constant motion traveling 960 miles, symbolizing the commitment of the U.S. people armed forces and government to never forget those who’ve come before us protecting our freedoms and to continuously remind ourselves the sacrifices [they have] given.”
The Air Force Personnel Center noted its missing persons branch continues their efforts to account for Air Force prisoners of war and those missing in action even after the annual National POW/MIA Recognition Day commemoratives have ended.
“Let us honor their sacrifice once more by expressing our deepest gratitude to our service members, our veterans, our families and all of those who have given so much to keep our country safe,” Johnston said. “And for those still held captive, we will keep them in our thoughts and keep the faith with them so they may be returned to their families and this nation as well.”