WILMINGTON — The POW/MIA flag is emblazoned with the words “You Are Not Forgotten.” And the members of James H. Smithson Post 6710, Veterans of Foreign Wars, exhibited that on National POW/MIA Recognition Day, the third Friday in September, with their annual program at the foot of the poles where the American and POW/MIA Flags are flown.
War is never a good thing or the preferred option for the resolution of disputes. However, when a nation’s sovereignty or way of life is threatened by hostile forces, the citizen’s of said nation, reluctantly, must take up arms to protect their homeland.
When this occurs, many will inevitably make the ultimate sacrifice for that cause and their families will be devastated, but there is another form of loss that can equally traumatize a family.
When the next of kin is notified that the whereabouts and/or physical condition of their loved one is unknown, the anxiety caused by the uncertainty and the conflicting emotions of hope and grief can be debilitating for that person(s).
As of Sept. 20, 2019, the Department of Defense estimates show that 81,991 U.S. military personnel involved in wars and conflicts from 7 December 1941 to present are unaccounted for. The majority of those (72,660) missing in action (MIA) or prisoner of war (POW) come from WWII.
To date, fewer than 8,000 of their remains have been recovered and returned to the U.S.A. for burial with full Military Honors. A concerted effort to locate, identify and return the remains of all those Americans unaccounted for in South East Asia and elsewhere, continues, with the support of the National League of Families.
The aforementioned National League of Families is also responsible for the POW/MIA flag, which has become the symbol of the movement to return any U.S. citizens still held in captivity and the repatriation of the remains of those American service men and women who have died on foreign soil.
But, remembrance by this group of veterans is not limited to this special day.
In a very visible yet obscure location of the post home, sits a small table set for one with an empty chair, representing the awaited homecoming of the thousands who have not returned, from their service abroad.
The table, complete with a full table setting, a vase holding a solitary rose, a Bible, an empty glass turned upside down, an American flag and other symbolic items, is maintained by members of the Post 6710 Auxiliary as a constant reminder of the pledge: “You Are Not Forgotten”.