Valley veterans honor National P.O.W/M.I.A. Recognition Day

Published: Sep. 15, 2023 at 10:49 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 16, 2023 at 12:47 AM EDT
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - The Department of Defense describes National P.O.W/M.I.A. Day as a day for remembering those in the armed forces who were prisoners of war, or never came home. The holiday dates back to 1979 when former President Jimmy Carter signed a proclamation to give special recognition to America’s service members who were prisoners of war (POW) or remained missing in action (MIA) and unaccounted for.

Veterans in the Shenandoah Valley participated while remembering those who never came home.

“We still have a war ongoing, and at this point, until they all come home, we still remember.” AmVeterans Department Commander Ralph Hensley said.

According to American Veterans Post 07, more than 81,000 service members are deemed prisoners of war or missing in action, going all the way back to World War II.

Commander Hensley can still remember when his grandfather was a prisoner of war during World War II.

“He left my grandmother with three children to raise — her not knowing one day to the next what his disposition was, whether he was coming home or not. He did come home after the war, but then immediately turned around ship right back out,” Commander Hensley said.

The Department of Defense’s POW/MIA Accounting Agency continues the search for the missing — looking for remains of U.S. military members in 45 nations. Gaining clarity for the families is still prioritized to this day.

“Recently, the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington cemetery was empty. Those soldiers that were entered there as P.O.W., missing in action were identified through DNA analysis,” Commander Hensley said.

The black-and-white banner originally stood as a tribute to the troops who fought in Vietnam and remain missing or unaccounted for. Since then, it has become a symbol of all those who still have not come home from conflicts like the Cold War, the Vietnam War, etc.

The annual recognition supports the nation’s promise to leave no service member behind.

“There’s still more out there in the jungles of Vietnam in the terrain of Korea, World War II, in the fields, Afghanistan, Iraq,” Commander Hensley said.

With American servicemembers still overseas, civilians can partake in the day by supporting veterans, families, and those on the frontlines working to bring them back.