Thousands of the nation’s prisoners of war and missing in action were honored during a wreath-laying ceremony at the Airman Leadership School Drill Pad at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., Sept. 21.
The ceremony was held on what is observed as the National POW/MIA Recognition Day. According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, there are more than 82,000 service members still unaccounted for.
“For those of us who haven’t been a POW or a loved of someone who is, or was a POW or MIA, it is hard to imagine, really impossible to imagine what that feels like,” said Col. Kirk Reagan, 412th Test Wing vice commander. “But for those that lived it, the experience is forever seared in to their very being.”
Reagan was one of the guest speakers of the event. He talked about the challenge that a family member of a POW/MIA may face. He said that modern deployments may be challenging, but being a prisoner of war is unimaginable.
“Today many of us deploy for three, six or even 12 months at a time, and for several deployments on end, and every time we count the days until we can return to our loved ones,” Reagan said. “But for the POWs, all they can do is count up, with no end in sight and no knowledge that they might ever return to see their loved ones again.”
During the ceremony, wreaths were laid next to portraits of a handful of POW and MIA veterans. A torch was also lit to signify the nation’s commitment to find and account for those that are still missing. The observance also honors the families of POWs and MIAs who are still waiting on word about their service member.
“For the loved ones left behind, each passing day brought new hope, but also the fear that they may go to sleep that night, again with no new news,” Reagan said. For most of us, we cannot begin to imagine this pain.”
For the families of the POWs and MIAs, waiting for news about their service members is also challenging said Carl Hernandez, commander, American Legion Post 348 of Palmdale, Calif.
“Can you imagine being one of these families who’s loved one has been held as prisoner of war or missing in action?” Hernandez said. “These families kept praying and hoping for their loved ones to come home, or to have final closure. We have not forgotten them. In my opinion, some today are still being held. Let’s not forget them, let’s never forget them.”