By Jim Garamone, American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 21, 2012 – At every federal building and post office today, a simple black and white flag flew along with the national colors as a reminder of the sacrifices and valor of former prisoners of war and those still missing in action.
At the annual National POW/MIA Recognition Day ceremony here, Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter pointed to the POW/MIA flags flying at the Pentagon and said he hoped they would cause Americans to pause and think of the 83,000 Americans still missing from the wars of the last 100 years.
Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr., the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and special guest former Sen. Chuck Hagel were among those attending.
Former prisoners of war and the families of those still missing in action were present as well. “We honor your courage and strength,” Carter said. “Courageous men and women throughout American history have answered the call to serve. And just as they committed themselves to serve this country, so this country will never tire and never rest until each and every one of [the MIA] are returned home.”
But this is not something that only concerns older wars. “Our most pressing concern at this moment,” Carter said, “is for Army Sergeant Beau Bergdahl, who was captured by enemy forces in Afghanistan in June 2009. We’re doing everything possible to locate and bring him home and keeping his family fully informed.”
Winnefeld, too, spoke of the new techniques and new science that allows the department to find and identify those listed as missing in action and to give them the recognition and honors they deserve. “Today more than 8,000 remain listed as missing in action from the Korean War,” he said. “Names that are a testament to the inscription on the Korean War Memorial that, ‘Freedom is not free.’”
Still the U.S. government will not rest, he said, noting it has used technological advances to bring closure to the families of those missing from that war. “Just last month, the remains of Cpl. Clarence Huff, a Marine from Brunswick, Ohio, who was reported missing in action since the India Company, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment of the 1st Marine Division, came under fire near the Chosin Reservoir in December 1950, returned to Ohio and were given a proper burial with full military honors,” Winnefeld said. This is thanks to the efforts of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, the admiral said.
Hagel, a Vietnam veteran, said former POWs and the families of those missing in action have continued to shape America “and have given inspiration and grace to a nation.”
The ceremony was held under clear blue skies on the Pentagon lawn and ended with a joint service fly-by with both fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters.