OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea --
Members of the Osan's Air Force Sergeants Association and Veterans of Foreign Wars chapter honored prisoners of war and service men still missing in action here during several ceremonies and events Sept. 12-16.
National POW/MIA Recognition Day was established to honor Americans held as Prisoners of War and to renew the nation's commitment to account for U.S. personnel still missing from past wars and conflicts. Many ceremonies take place across the country and around the world to remember the nation's Prisoners of War and unreturned veterans.
According to the National League of POW/MIA Families' website, in 1986, the members of the group recommended the third Friday in September be used to pay tribute to former POWs or people MIA, and for those who are still missing today.
Airmen here took the opportunity to inform, educate and remember all these brave men and women.
"Anyone who is a POW or MIA is still a part of our military family whether they have been accounted for or not," said Staff Sgt. Gena Armstrong, Osan's AFSA Chapter 1556 public affairs representative. "Taking the time to remember and honor their sacrifices is the least we can do."
About 100 Airmen formed up Sept. 12 at the 51st Fighter Wing headquarters flagpole to raise the POW/MIA flag and formally start the week. This observance is one of six days a year Congress has mandated flying the National League of Families' POW/MIA flag.
According to the Defense Prisoner of War and Missing Personnel Office website the league's POW/MIA flag is the only flag ever displayed in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, where it will stand as a powerful symbol of national commitment to America's POW/MIAs until the fullest possible accounting has been achieved for U.S. personnel still missing and unaccounted for from the Vietnam War.
Volunteers spent Sept. 13 afternoon at the base exchange raising awareness and informing people on the importance of National POW/MIA Recognition Day.
"We have a unique opportunity being in Korea," Armstrong said. "There could be someone who is right across the North Korean border who is still missing from the Korean War, and we should do everything we can to make sure people are educated and aware."
The volunteers also took the time educating people on what the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, or JPAC, does.
JPAC is located on the island of Oahu, Hawaii and was activated Oct. 1, 2003. Its mission is to account for all Americans missing as a result of the Nation's past conflicts.
Their members frequently engage in negotiations with representatives of foreign governments to promote and maintain a good working relationship with wherever the JPAC teams deploy to ensure mission success.
On average, an MIA is identified about every four days. Since 2003, JPAC has identified more than 560 Americans, and more than 1,800 since the accounting effort began in the 1970's.
"Being missing in action is all about the untold story," Armstrong said. "Some of these amazing stories will never be shared but it is still our responsibility to find our fallen brothers and sisters."
The next event held at Osan was a candlelight vigil Sept. 14 in the base chapel to remember 52 veterans who are still missing today. A name of one person from each state was read and a candle was lit in their memory.
A retreat ceremony lowering the POW/MIA flag and was held Sept. 15 and also marked the beginning of a 24-hour memorial run.
Hundreds of Airmen and units all over base took part in running the POW/MIA flag 1.2-mile course - for 24 hours the flag never stopped.
The events culminated Sept. 16, National POW/MIA Recognition Day, where hundreds of Airmen gathered at the POW/MIA Memorial outside the base theater to pay respects to POW/MIAs, their families and tens-of-thousands who are still missing today.
To date there are still 1,685 Americans missing or unaccounted for from the Vietnam War, nearly 8,000 from the Korean War and more than 73,000 from World War II. The motto is, "You are not forgotten."
For more information on National POW/MIA Recognition Day visit http://www.pow-miafamilies.org/League/Home.html
. For more information on the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command visit http://www.jpac.pacom.mil