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News: Fort Bliss POW/MIA National Recognition Day

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Fort Bliss POW/MIA National Recognition Day Courtesy Photo

More than 100 soldiers, veterans and El Paso citizens joined the Fort Bliss leadership in signing “the Army Song” during the National Prisoners of War/Missing in Action Recognition Day, at the 1st Armored Division Parade Field, Sept 21. (From right to left) Maj. Gen. Dana J.H. Pittard, 1st Armored Division and Fort Bliss commanding general; Command Sgt. Maj. Ronnie R. Kelley, 1AD and Fort Bliss, command sergeant major; Alice Kelley; retired Army Spc. Shoshana Johnson 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, 507th Maintenance Company, and former POW; Eunice Johnson and retired Army Spc. Joe Hudson, 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, 507th Maintenance Company, and former POW.

FORT BLISS, Texas - On this third Friday in September, El Paso’s temperature was 79 degrees with a cooling two mile per hour breeze.

More than 100 soldiers, veterans and El Paso citizens joined the Fort Bliss leadership with a solemn observance for “those who could not attend” during the National Prisoners of War/Missing in Action Recognition Day, at the 1st Armored Division Parade Field, Sept 21.

Established by Congress in 1979, POW/MIA Recognition Day is a time when Americans can reflect on service members that deployed and did not return.

Special guest speaker, and El Paso Native, was retired Army Spc. Shoshana Johnson, 11th Air Defense Artillery Brigade, 507th Maintenance Company, and former POW.

“I am very honored to be here today. The El Paso community has shown me so much support I will take every opportunity to return it,” she said.

Johnson’s unit convoy was ambushed during Operation Iraqi Freedom, March 23, 2003. Johnson and several members of her unit were captured by Iraqi troops, and Johnson was held by enemy troops for about 22 days ... a Prisoner of War.

“People ask me, ‘how were you able to hold up while you were there’,” she said. “I never thought about being captured or how I would hold up if I was captured.”

“But I thought about home. We have so much here, and ‘CAN’T’ cannot be in our vocabulary especially after all those that came before us in Vietnam,” Johnson said. “You are capable of such greatness.”

Johnson was rescued by Marines assigned to the 3rd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marine Division, April 13, 2003.

Upon her return to the United States, Johnson said the El Paso community was critical to her recovery process.

“I would not have been able to move forward without the support of this community,” she said. “Everyone was coming up to me and asking me how I was, and saying ‘they put me in their prayers.’”

For soldiers it is important to have a strong spiritual fitness and family connection before you deploy, because it helped her while in captivity and after, she said.

“Unfortunately not all soldiers have that type of support, but in the military community if you have a buddy with a family that will take you in, take advantage of that,” Johnson said.

Johnson was awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart and the Prisoner of War Medal for her service in Iraq.

A graduate of El Paso’s Andress High School, she has since completed a Culinary Arts degree from El Paso Community College.
Raised in El Paso she is very familiar with Fort Bliss, and she even recalls her father was once a Drill Sergeant at the Logan Heights area, which is now military family housing.

Accompanying Johnson on this day was her mother, Eunice.
Eunice was laughing and smiling as many well-wishers congratulated and thanked her daughter for speaking at the observance and for her service to the Country.

Veterans from the Korean War, Vietnam and Iraqi Freedom also attended the observance and thanked her.

Eunice’s child was returned to her alive and healthy.

The POW/MIA motto is “You Are Never Forgotten” stressing the significance of this day to a particular group and to the Country as a whole.

More than 83,000 Americans are still reported missing from World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War, the Vietnam War and the 1991 Gulf War, according to the Defense Prisoner of War Military Personnel Office.

"Keeping the Promise" is DPMO's motto, which refers to the promise made by the U.S. Government to recover and account for missing Americans.

DPMO’s website is: http://www.dtic.mil/dpmo/


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Public Domain Mark
This work, Fort Bliss POW/MIA National Recognition Day, is free of known copyright restrictions under U.S. copyright law.

Date Taken:09.21.2012

Date Posted:09.21.2012 14:51

Location:FORT BLISS, TX, USGlobe

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  • The first commemoration in honor of American Prisoners of War or service members deemed Missing in Action was held July 18, 1979. In 1986 the date for POW/MIA Recognition Day was officially set to the third Friday in September and has been proclaimed every year henceforth by the president of the United States.
  • 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.
  • Specialized archaeological recovery teams from the U.S. Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command are deployed to Vanuatu searching for four Americans who remain unaccounted-for from World War II.
  • Schriever concluded POW/MIA week Sept. 13 with a 24-Hour Vigil Run, Remembrance Ceremony and words from retired Air Force Col. Paul "P.K." Robinson, a former prisoner of war from the Vietnam Conflict.

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