Remembering those who didn’t come home
By Marge Christianson
Special to Independent Newsmedia
Imagine sending your son or daughter off to war and never knowing what happened to them. Having descriptions like “Killed in Action, Body Not Recovered,” “Died in Captivity, Remains Not Returned” or “Presumptive Finding of Death” next to their name on a government list.
On Friday, Sept. 20, National POW/MIA Recognition Day, is an observance day that honors those who were or are Prisoners Of War (POW) as well as those who are still Missing In Action (MIA).
According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, Arizona has 49 “Personnel Unaccounted For” from the Korean War and another 15 from the Vietnam War. Nationally, there are 1,587 U.S. service members unaccounted for from Vietnam alone.
“On this special day of remembrance, we honor the heroes who faithfully served and suffered as prisoners of war,” Peoria Mayor Cathy Carlat said. “For those who have yet to make it back home to the land of the free, we remain indebted to your sacrifice and we pray for you and for your family. You are not forgotten.”
In the United States, POW/MIA Recognition Day is observed annually on the third Friday in September.
Locally, in an effort to remind the public about these imprisoned or missing service members, the American Legion Family works with schools and local businesses to educate citizens through the POW/MIA table setting. Such a table will available to view by the public at the Peoria Community Center, 8335 W. Jefferson St., Sept. 20-23, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.:
“Those who have served, and those currently serving in the uniformed services of the United States, are ever mindful that the sweetness of enduring peace has always been tainted by the bitterness of personal sacrifice. We are compelled to never forget that while we enjoy our daily pleasures, there are others who have endured and may still be enduring the agonies of pain, deprivation and imprisonment.
We call your attention to this small table which occupies a place of dignity and honor. It is set for one, symbolizing the fact that members of our armed forces are missing from our ranks. They are referred to as POWs and MIAs.
We call them comrades. They are unable to be with their loved ones and families, so we join together to pay humble tribute to them, and to bear witness to their continued absence.
The table is small, symbolizing the frailty of one prisoner, alone against his or her suppressors.
The tablecloth is white, symbolic of the purity of their intentions to respond to their Country’s call to arms.The single rose in the vase signifies the blood they may have shed in sacrifice to ensure the freedom of our beloved United States of America. This rose also reminds us of the family and friends of our missing comrades who keep faith, while awaiting their return.
The red ribbon on the vase represents an unyielding determination for a proper accounting of our comrades who are not among us.
A slice of lemon on the plate reminds us of their bitter fate.
The salt sprinkled on the plate reminds us of the countless fallen tears of families as they wait.
The glass is inverted, they cannot toast with us at this time.
The chair is empty. They are NOT here. The candle is reminiscent of the light of hope, which lives in our hearts to illuminate their way home, away from their captors, to the open arms of a grateful nation.
The American flag reminds us that many of them may never return – and have paid the supreme sacrifice to insure our freedom.
Let us pray to the Supreme Commander that all of our comrades will soon be back within our ranks.
Let us remember – and never forget their sacrifice.
May God forever watch over them and protect them and their families.”
The American Legion Family is committed to achieving a full accounting of all POW/MIAs from the Gulf War, Vietnam War, Cold War, Korean War and World War II. This means returning living POWs, the repatriation of their remains, or finding convincing evidence why neither of these is possible.
Resolution 288, adopted at the 67th American Legion National Convention, calls for designating a POW/MIA Empty Chair at all official meetings of The American Legion Family as a physical symbol of the thousands of American POW/MIAs still unaccounted for from all wars and conflicts involving the United States.
Across the country, observances of National POW/MIA Recognition Day are held on military installations, ships at sea, state capitols, schools and veterans’ facilities. This observance is one of six days throughout the year that Congress has mandated the flying of the National League of Families’ POW/MIA flag. The others are Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day and Veterans Day.
The flag is to be flown at major military installations, national cemeteries, all post offices, VA medical facilities, the World War II Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the official offices of the secretaries of state, defense and veterans affairs, the director of the selective service system and the White House.
A Pentagon ceremony featuring members of each branch of military service is held annually on National POW/MIA Recognition Day.
Please take a moment to remember and honor the Arizona U.S. Service Members who remain unaccounted for:
Private John Quincy Adams, United States Army; Sergeant Robert Gonzalez Alaniz, United States Army; Corporal Geraldo Robles Aldana, United States Army; Private First Class Santos Valencia Alvarado Jr, United States Army; Sergeant First Class Billy Wayne Anderson, United States Army; Captain Donald Gaile Bigham, United States Air Force; Corporal Joseph Maurice Bologna, United States Army; Sergeant James Byron Brock, United States Army; 1st Lieutenant Robert Durham Canfield Jr, United States Air Force; Corporal James William Carroll, United States Army; Sergeant Joseph Chee, United States Army; Lieutenant Leonard Ray Cheshire, United States Navy; Corporal Jimmy Lee Christian, United States Army; Private Charles M Crum, United States Army; Captain Frank Adair Doyle, United States Air Force; Private First Class Glen Merrill Dupuy, United States Army; Sergeant Lamont J M Durfee, United States Army; Sergeant Richard Caballero Encinas, United States Army; Sergeant Gordon Francis Enos, United States Army; Sergeant Henry Acedo Gastelo, United States Army; Private First Class Gustavo Kin Gomez, United States Army; Sergeant First Class Simon Griego, United States Army; Corporal Manuel Baker Hernandez, United States Army; Sergeant Billy Edwin Hylton, United States Army; Private First Class Donald Richard Jarvis, United States Army; 2nd Lieutenant Robert Oliver Lacey, United States Air Force; 1st Lieutenant Bob Alfred Lauterbach, United States Air Force; Private First Class Alfonso Edwards Lopez, United States Marine Corps; Private First Class Luciano Martinez Maldonado, United States Army; Captain Robert Martin Jr, United States Air Force; Private First Class Roberto Vasquez Nogales Jr, United States Army; Sergeant James Walter Osborn, United States Army; Captain Alexander Beck Padilla, United States Air Force; Corporal Arthur Conterras Ramirez, United States Army; Master Sergeant John Burton Rapee, United States Army; Corporal Leopold Sandoval, United States Army; Private George Peter Segura, United States Army; Sergeant First Class Wayne Cleon Shurbet, United States Army; Master Sergeant Luis M Smith, United States Army; Corporal Porter Joe Smithson, United States Marine Corps; Corporal Antonio Molina Soto, United States Army; 2nd Lieutenant David Cline Stepp, United States Army; Corporal Neil Roger Stone, United States Army; Private First Class Billy Ray Thatcher, United States Marine Corps; 1st Lieutenant John Ruben Tully, United State Air Force; Private First Class Joe Mascareno Valenzuela Jr, United States Marine Corps; Sergeant First Class Frank Gonzales Vejar, United States Army; Private Felix Martinez Yanez, United States Army; and Corporal John Crooke Yates, United States Army.
First Lieutenant Ronald Lester Babcock, United States Army; Captain Paul Jennings Bates, United States Army; Sergeant Ronald Alan Bois Claire, United States Navy; Captain Donald Alan Brown, United States Air Force; Lieutenant Robin Bern Cassell, United States Navy; Specialist Elliott Crook, United States Army; First Lieutenant Charles Alva Dale, United States Army; Captain Johnny Howard Godfrey, United States Airforce; Lieutenant Commander Max Duane Lukenbach, United States Navy; First Lieutenant Michael Andrew Miller, United States Air Force; Lieutenant Dennis Stanley Pike, United States Navy; Warrant Officer Lowell S Powers, United States Army; Sergeant Armando Ramirez, United States Army; Lieutenant Commander Robert Saavedra, United States Navy; and Lance Corporal James Calven Thomas, United States Marine Corps.
Editor’s note: Marge Christianson is the public relations volunteer with American Legion Auxiliary John J Morris Unit 62.
IF YOU GO
What: POW/MIA table settings on public viewing
When: 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Sept. 20-23
Where: Peoria Community Center, 8335 W. Jefferson St.