September 27, 2012

Yuma celebrates national remembrance of the fallen: POW/MIA

Story and photo by Cpl. Sean Dennison
Desert Warrior Staff
The table reserved for Prisoners of War and troops classified as those Missing in Action stands before a crowd of supporters at Yuma American Legion Post 19 during the post’s annual POW/MIA Recognition Day breakfast.

World War I. World War II. The Korean War. Vietnam. Operation Iraqi Freedom. These bloody affairs, and others across the world and time, may never yield all their secrets of the fallen.

Within the records of American troops alone, approximately 73,000 are listed as missing.

Today, the remains of those Missing in Action are still being found, while the stories of Prisoners of War slowly die out with the prisoners themselves.

National POW/MIA Recognition Day, a national observance seen throughout the U.S. held on the third Friday of every September, is a way for Americans to show their respect for troops and families affected by enemy captivity or disappearances, but it’s so easy to ignore, for people to forget the sacrifices and hellacious tribulations of those before them.

The Yuma American Legion Post 19 seeks to remedy this, every year.

Post 19 hosted a remembrance ceremony and breakfast buffet to pay homage to all who served and are still listed as a Prisoner of War or Missing in Action at their main hall, Sept. 21.

The setup of a POW/MIA remembrance is the same:

It is set for one. This table is our way of symbolizing that members of our profession of arms are missing from our midst. They are commonly call POW’s or MIA’s…we call them brothers. 

They are unable to be with us this evening and so we remember them. 

This table set for one is small… it symbolizes the frailty of one prisoner against his oppressors. 

The tablecloth is white — symbolizing the purity of their motives when answering the call to duty. 

The single red rose, displayed in a vase, reminds us of the life of each of the missing, and the(ir) loved ones and friends of these Americans who keep the faith, awaiting answers. 

The vase is tied with a yellow ribbon, symbol of our continued determination to account for our missing. 

A slice of lemon on the bread plate is to remind us of the bitter fate of those captured and missing in a foreign land. 

A pinch of salt symbolizes the tears endured by those missing and their families 

who seek answers. 

The glass is inverted — to symbolize their inability to share this evening’s toast. 

The chair is empty — they are missing. 

Remember… all of you who served with them and called them comrades, who depended on their might and aid, and relied on them… for surely… they have not forsaken you.

The audience at Post 19, nearly all of who had some affiliation with the Armed Forces, be it prior service or general altruism, volunteered their Friday morning to remember those before them who never got to see home again, or carried the horrors of war more deeply than most.

Representing Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Sgt. Maj. David Wilson, the Marine Attack Squadron 311 sergeant major and a native of Sacramento, Calif., attended the event.

“As tough as this is to talk about, we have to,” Wilson said. “We remember those that sacrifice a tremendous amount for the freedoms we enjoy every day. Being held captive by your enemy is one of the toughest things you could go through on this earth.”

Wilson, better than most Marines, indeed most people, knows the horrors of captivity: in 2004, during one of the many infamous Fallujah horrors, then Gunnery Sgt. Wilson uncovered, in a strategically important six-story building, a cache of weapons and drugs.

That firearms and amphetamines were present surprised no one involved. That the Marines also found people, hostages, revealed to Wilson the true depths of animosity his enemy had for him.

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