Pentagon Ceremony Honors POWs, Missing in Action, Families
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sept. 16, 2005 The acting deputy defense secretary today reaffirmed the nation's commitment to fully account for all the nation's prisoners of war and servicemembers missing in action.
Rep. Duncan Hunter, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, told the audience at the National POW/MIA Recognition Day ceremony at the Pentagon on Sept. 16 that Americans "remember the lessons of our POWs and missing in action. We must stay strong. We must appreciate our freedom. And we must conduct ourselves with honor." Photo by Rudi Williams
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
Gordon R. England and Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, hosted a ceremony for National POW/MIA Recognition Day at the Pentagon's River Parade Field.
"We're here to remember, we're here to honor, the courage of America's captives and our missing countrymen who risked everything, facing the worst of war to preserve the best of America," England said. "We're here, above all, to reaffirm our commitment to keep the pledge President Bush made to make the fullest possible accounting of our prisoners of war and those missing in action."
England said the brave men and women who serve today - whether in Afghanistan or Iraq or in other theaters - can do so with full confidence that if they are captured, become missing or fall in battle, this nation will spare no effort to bring them home. "That, too, is our solemn pledge," he said. "However long it takes, whatever it takes, whatever the cost, we will bring them home."
Rep. Duncan Hunter, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, was the keynote speaker for the event. Hunter is a Vietnam veteran who served in the 173rd Airborne Brigade and 75th Army Ranger Regiment, and his father served as an artillery officer in the South Pacific during World War II. His oldest son has served two tours as a Marine in Iraq.
"You hallow this ground," the congressman told former POWs and the families of POWs and servicemembers missing in action in attendance.
"This a day in which we pause to remember those who served in captivity and those who were never returned," Hunter said. "It's a day that we honor and recognize the wife who knew the loneliness of separation. It's a day that we reflect on and honor the son who went to his high school graduation without a father to shake his hand and say, 'Congratulations, son.'
"It's a day that we recognize a daughter who walked down the aisle with no one to give her away," he continued. "This is a day that we recognize and say a prayer for the families who watched the sun set on the Pacific coast or the Atlantic coast, waiting for a loved one to return and came back again and again and again, and never saw their loved one again."
The nation owes it to its POWs and MIAs to honor their sacrifice, Hunter said. "We should also honor POWs and those still missing in action by taking a message from them, ... a message from those who are not with us, and that is we must stay strong," he said. "There's a message that I've always derived from our prisoners of war and those that are missing in action, and that is, our obligation is to stay strong and to maintain this freedom that they gave us."
Hunter quoted his friend Ed Martin, who was a Navy commander when he was shot down over North Vietnam on July 9, 1967, was captured immediately, and spent the next five years and eight months in captivity, as saying, "Americans have an unlimited capacity for overcoming adversity."
"That's a message from our missing in action and POWs," Hunter noted. "In New Orleans right now, we've got hundreds of thousands of people who are coming home to a broken city, but they've got hope in their hearts. In (Iraq's) Fallujah, Baghdad and Mosul, Americans are fighting in very tough and very dangerous circumstances, but they're fighting with the spirit and determination and love for our country."
Hunter said Martin told him in a telephone conversation that "as POWs we had one principal edict: We will conduct ourselves with honor."
"As Americans, we must always do the same," Hunter said. "We must remember the lessons of our POWs and missing in action. We must stay strong. We must appreciate our freedom. And we must conduct ourselves with honor. And if we do those things, America will remain a great nation."