City of Palmdale remembers POWs, MIAs

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Photograph by Linda KC Reynolds

A small but intimate group joined The Antelope Valley Service Organization Association and the City of Palmdale during a POW/MIA ceremony at Poncitlán Square Sept. 15 to honor prisoners of war and those who are still unaccounted for. According to the Department of Defense, 83,000 American troops are still missing.

Setting the “Table of Honor” and promising to “Never Forget” is more than a tradition for the Antelope Valley Service Organization Association and the City of Palmdale.

“It is something we hold close to our hearts. It is something we pass on to our next generation as a community and as a country,” said Palmdale Mayor Jim Ledford, who declares that the POW/MIA You Are Not Forgotten ceremony is one of his favorite events to attend.

He also gave a plug for the AV Vietnam Memorial Wall that will be on display at Marie Kerr Park Nov. 11-13. “The way we support our military is what makes the Antelope Valley so fabulous.”

A small but intimate group gathered at Poncitlán Square Sept. 15, 2016, to honor prisoners of war and those who are still unaccounted for.

“Around 83,000 American troops are still missing,” said Bobby Breech, who served as master of ceremonies for the event. According to the Department of Defense, 73,681 are still missing from World War II, 7,947 from the Korean War, 126 from the Cold War and 1,657 from the Vietnam War. “Every day there are people wondering what happened to their loved ones.”

ROTC Evelyn Pacheco explained the meaning of the table, while members of the Knight High School Air Force Junior ROTC Michael Hernandez, Mariela Martinez, Andrew Johnston-Pineda, Andy Rivas and Jesus Valderrama set the “Table of Honor.”

Still standing–POW U.S. Army Air Corps Veteran Arthur Suppona, 96, pays respect to all those who served and who are still unaccounted for during a POW/MIA Remembrance Ceremony at Poncitlán Square. Suppona was captured during World War II when he bailed out of a B-24 over Germany. He was a member of the 389th Bomb Group, “The Sky Scorpions,” who flew strategic bombing missions.

The table itself is round to show that our concern for the missing is never-ending. The white tablecloth draped over the table represents the purity of their response to our country’s call to arms. The empty chair represents all who are not here with us. The Bible represents faith in a higher power and the pledge to our country, founded as one nation under God. The black napkin stands for the emptiness these warriors have left in the hearts of their families and friends. The single red rose reminds us of their families and loved ones. The red ribbon represents the love of our country, which inspired them to answer the nation’s call. The yellow candle and its yellow ribbon symbolize the everlasting hope for a joyous reunion with those yet unaccounted for. The slices of lemon on the bread plate remind us of their bitter fate. The salt upon the bread plate represents the tears of their families. The wine glass, turned upside down, reminds us that our distinguished comrades cannot be with us to drink a toast.

It took a few moments and great determination for Arthur Suppona, 96, to stand for the posting of the colors and the Pledge of Allegiance, but old age and a stiff body would not, could not, hold him down. “I’ll stand for those who can’t,” said the U.S. Army Air Corps veteran, who was a prisoner in World War II.

Joining the military to get an education and wanting to fly, Suppona served as a radar navigator bombardier. He was captured June 20, 1944, and released May 1, 1945, when the Russians came through, a week before the war ended in Europe. He doesn’t share much about his capture, however, he still holds out hope for running into his war buddies. “I was hoping I would run into some of my mates today, but I think they are all gone,” said Suppona.