A small group gathered at Poncitlan Square in Palmdale, Calif., Sept. 15 to honor prisoners of war and those still missing in action.
The third Friday of September is observed as National POW/ MIA Remembrance Day.
Under the guidance of Maj. Conrad Hernandez, ROTC members from Highland High School, Jose Burkhart, Andrew McCollum, Angelyn Ancheta and Genevieve Hernandez carefully set the Remembrance Table. Set for one, the small table symbolizes the frailty of one prisoner alone against his oppressors, sacrifices made and the hope of their return.
Master of Ceremonies Bobby Breech of the AV Service Organization Association greeted guests and retired Navy veteran Phil Roberts led with a prayer.
“I wish it was standing room only here today,” said City Councilman Tom Lakey who was standing in for Mayor Jim Ledford. Lakey said it is contingent that each of us who understand, take time to pay tribute and honor those who made and make sacrifices. “We need to share with our children and neighbors the importance in the symbolism being represented today.”
Marine veteran Dennis Anderson shared his experience when he was in Baghdad, Iraq, on the first anniversary of the fall of Saddam.
“It was not a happy time.” After hearing a seismic boom he soon found out that an American convoy was ambushed, less than a mile away. Four Americans were killed and two were captured. “It looked like little Arizona,” said Anderson.
Hamel, the captured truck driver escaped a few weeks later, Keith Maupin a National Guardsman was not so fortunate. Four years later Maupin’s remains were found.
“The thing about today is that prisoners are not in a camp with other prisoners. They are alone in caves, crates and dungeons,” Anderson explained.
There are still 13,000 MIA from Vietnam and the only POW know today is Bowe Bergdahl, taken in 2009 and presumed to be alive.
Other guest speakers included Dan Kermel, Rebecca Brown and Air Force Maj. Conrad Hernandez.
For more information about Veteran’s Day activities planned for Nov. 11, visit www.facebook.com/antelope Valley Service Organization Association.