KEYPORT, Wash. — Active duty, Reserve, and retired service members along with military family members and civilians attended a ceremony to pay tribute to POW/MIA Recognition Day at the Naval Undersea Warfare Museum, Sept. 20.
The 6th annual ceremony’s emerging theme was “Missing… Seeking Answers.” The theme honors America’s promise to continue the search for POW/MIA service members until they are found and brought home.
“This day, the third Friday of September, is set aside to remember those American warfighters whose crime was nothing more than doing their nation’s duty,” said Capt. Dave Kohnke, Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Keyport commander. “The idea of remembering our country’s POWs and MIAs is so powerful that it merits its own flag.
After speaking Capt. Kohnke initiated a flag passing ceremony for morning colors while Navy Band Northwest (NBNW) performed America the Beautiful proceeded by the National Anthem.
Capt. Thomas Zwolfer, commander, Naval Base Kitsap Bangor took the podium after morning colors and illustrated how many of our service members are still POW/MIA by stating that more than 80,000 men and women are still out there.
He also discussed the measures that Joint Prisoner of War/Missing In Action Accounting Command (JPAC) is taking to find and bring home our heroes. “JPAC has identified more than 1,800 Americans since the accounting effort began in the 1970s,” said Capt. Zwolfer “Of course, numbers don’t really tell the story, each service member recovered was a person with goals, with dreams, with talents, whose life ended too soon.”
JPAC’s everyday operations involve researching case files, investigating leads, excavating sites and identifying Americans who were killed in action and never made it home. “They made the ultimate sacrifice and it’s important to remember people never made it home,” said Navy Diver 3rd Class Josh Amberson, assigned to Naval Undersea Warfare Center. “It’s an honor to be able to be able to pay respect and tribute.”
During the ceremony the missing man table was displayed in remembrance of our service members who can’t be with us.
The United States’ pays homage to National POW/MIA Recognition Day across the nation on the third Friday of September every year. Many Americans and their families take time to remember those who were prisoners of war and those who are still missing in action. “To our military families who have suffered the uncertainty regarding the status of a missing family member, we pledge our continuing support,” said Capt. Kohnke. “We reaffirm our commitment to securing the return of all Americans who may be held against their will and to repatriating all recoverable remains of those who died in service to our country.
This observance is one of six days throughout the year that Congress has mandated the flying of the National League of Families’ POW/MIA flag. The five others are Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day and Veterans Day.