Luke honors those lost, captured in war

Senior Airman James Hensley

LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. — Luke Air Force Base held a ceremony Sept. 16 in honor of prisoners of war and those missing in action preceded by a two-day vigil.

The vigil began at 3:30 p.m. Sept. 15 with Brig. Gen. Brook Leonard, 56th Fighter Wing commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Randy Kwiatkowski, 56th FW command chief, taking the first vigil watch for exactly 56 minutes at the base flag pole.

“Everyone, from our most junior to the most senior Airmen, should never forget what molded us into who we are today,” said Senior Master Sgt. Kari Boyles, 56th Dental Squadron superintendent and vigil ceremony participant. “It’s important to always remember and respect those service members who have paid the ultimate sacrifice for our country.”

The 24-hour vigil lasted until 4 p.m. the following day commencing the final retreat ceremony.

Retired Lt. Col. Jeff Tice was guest speaker. Tice was awarded the Silver Star, Purple Heart and earned POW medals after returning from capture during the Gulf War.

“Of all the citizens of the United States of America, we the warriors know very well that freedom is not free,” Tice said. “No one can attest to this better than those of us who have served this great nation in times of war and found ourselves being held captive as prisoners of war.”

Tice also gave a briefing of military POW/MIA history statistics and spoke of his physical deprivation during captivity.

“The decreasing number of POW/MIA in wars from WWII to the present is an excellent trend,” Tice said. “I pray it continues and becomes zero.”

After Tice’s speech, he gave the order to retire the POW/MIA flag for the ceremony. Leonard then came forward and gave final remarks.

“Thunderbolt Nation, it has been said that you will become what you celebrate, honor and remember. Today we celebrate, honor and remember the hundreds of thousands of POW/MIAs who have gone before us, who have, in numerous ways, paid a sacrifice to the country.”