Wolfowitz, Myers Host Pentagon POW/MIA Recognition Ceremony
By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Sep. 14, 2004 "When one of our own is killed in action, taken prisoner or becomes missing, we lose a member of our military family," the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told attendees today during the Pentagon's National POW/MIA Recognition Day ceremony.
World War II Medal of Honor recipient Sen. Daniel K. Inouye of
Hawaii troops the line with Col. Charles Taylor, regimental commander of the 3rd
U.S. Infantry Division (Old Guard) to begin the Pentagon's National POW/MIA
Recognition Day ceremonies Sept. 14. Photo by Rudi Williams
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
"When one of our own is becomes a POW or is missing, their immediate family and the larger military family endure the tragic pain of not knowing where they are or if they will ever return," Air Force Gen. B. Richard Myers said.
That, Myers said, is why the annual POW/MIA Recognition Day ceremony carries so much meaning for immediate and military families. "We gather to formally remember our loved ones and their service and to renew our pledge that we shall never, never forget them," Myers said.
The character of the nation is reflected in the character of those who serve, Myers said. "And those we remember today," he added, "reflect the very best of our nation."
"The recovery and return of our missing Americans can mean years of painstaking effort," noted Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, who also spoke. "And some 600 men and women, both military and civilians, around the world take part in everything from diplomatic negotiations and field operations to forensic analysis. They are tireless and dedicated. And through their latest efforts, the remains of fallen Americans have just been recovered in North Korea and are now headed home."
Wolfowitz said the sacrifices made my POWs and those missing in action have been great. "We're here to remember and honor the courage of America's POWs and missing countrymen who risked everything, facing the worst of war to preserve the best of America," Wolfowitz told the large gathering on the Pentagon's River Parade Field.
Troops from each military service paraded in honor of America's POWs and missing servicemembers. An all-service color guard posted the colors, and music was provided by "The President's Own" U.S. Marine Corps Band.
Wolfowitz assured American troops fighting terrorism in Iraq, Afghanistan and other parts of the globe that they can be fully confident that if they're captured, become missing or fall in battle, this nation will spare no effort to bring them home.
"That," the deputy secretary said, "is our solemn pledge. However long it takes, whatever it takes, whatever the cost."
Myers called the event's keynote speaker, World War II Medal of Honor recipient Hawaii Sen. Daniel Inouye, "a true American hero." Inouye fought with the all- Japanese American 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which was the most decorated unit in U.S. military history. With the motto "Go for Broke," the 442nd had more than 18,000 awards bestowed upon it, including 9,500 Purple Hearts, 52 Distinguished Service Crosses, Seven Distinguished Unit Citations, but only one Medal of Honor.
Calling the 80-year-old senator a friend of the military, Wolfowitz said no one who understands better what the men and women of the armed forces want for the country and what they are prepared to give.
"No one who understands better how important the unstinting support of the American people is for our troops as they undertake their difficult and dangerous work," Wolfowitz noted. "No one understands better than Dan Inouye the kind of devotion to our nation the American soldier takes to war and how important is the pledge we make to them that we will leave no man or woman behind."
Inouye said today's military members stand for the same principles as the POWs and MIAs before them. "American POWs and MIAs have honored their nation through their service and their sacrifice, much like the magnificent young men and women standing so proudly on the parade field today," he said. "Those who wear the uniform today and those who went before them know, better than most, why bringing home our missing Americans is a sacred commitment. That mission rests squarely on the shoulders of those of us to whom you have entrusted some measure of leadership. Your support and encouragement will continue to hold us accountable."
He told the military members in the audience it's important for them to know the nation will not abandon them. "Though this effort is engrained in the hearts and minds of Americans, it's you who ensure this mission continues," he said. "You're aware of the monumental effort to account for the missing from all wars, but the commitment goes much further than that.
"While we seek to bring home the warriors of the past, we must also ensure that you warriors of the present should you go into harm's way your nation will bring you home. Whatever it takes!" To the families of the missing, Inouye said, "Your government will not rest until they all come home."
Observances of National POW/MIA Recognition Day are held across the country on military installations and ships at sea and in state capitals, 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 flown at major military installations; national cemeteries; post offices; Veterans Affairs medical facilities; the Korean War and Vietnam Veterans memorials on the national mall; the offices of the secretaries of state, defense and veterans affairs and director of the selective service system; and the White House.