PHOTOS: POW-MIA Remembered, 81,000 MIA Names Read in 24-Hour Flag Carries On Bases Nationwide

Tech. Sgt. Trayvon Mendez, 509th Security Forces Squadron defender, carries a Prisoner of War/Missing in Action flag while running during a 24-hour POW/MIA Remembrance event at Skelton Lake at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., Sept. 17, 2020. The annual event is held on the third Friday in September to honor the more than 80,000 American service member prisoners of war or missing in action. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Parker J. McCauley)

The names of the 82,000 American service members who are still missing in action were read by hundreds of volunteers who participated in the 24-hour POW/MIA Remembrance event held each year on National POW/MIA Recognition Day.

National POW/MIA Recognition Day was established in 1979 through a proclamation signed by President Jimmy Carter. Since then, each subsequent president has issued an annual proclamation commemorating the third Friday in September as National POW/MIA Recognition Day.

Members of Team Whiteman, at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri, ran, walked and rucked for 24 hours to honor and remember prisoners of war and those missing in action by carrying the flag as they completed laps around the Ike Skelton Lake.

“For the next 24 hours, I hope that everybody who is part of this takes some time to really reflect,” said Col. Jeffrey Schreiner, 509th Bomb Wing commander said at the Sept. 17-18 event at Whiteman AFB. “Reflect on what we have, reflect on the history and the sacrifices that have been made over the years, reflect on the people that didn’t come back.”

Master Sgt. Eric Whipple, 509th Comptroller Squadron financial analyst flight chief at Whiteman AFB, said: “The flag symbolizes the United States’ resolve to never forget POWs or those who served their country in conflicts and are still missing.”

The event was a success, despite the ongoing pandemic:“COVID can’t stop some things,” said Chief Master Sgt. Kathleen McCool, 509th Bomb Wing Command Chief at Whiteman AFB. “It might make it a little bit different, but COVID cannot stop everything and this is one thing that COVID could not stop.”

Following the event McCool thanked the coordinators for their hard work putting the event together and making it succeed despite challenges presented by the COVID safety concerns.

Master Chief Mario Rivers, the Naval Air Station Pensacola command master chief, carries the Prisoner of War/Missing in Action (POW/MIA) flag during the 359th Training Squadron-sponsored POW/MIA Remembrance Run Sept. 20 in the Naval Air Technical Training Center (NATTC) courtyard aboard Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla. U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps service members volunteered to walk or run circuits of the courtyard from 3 p.m. Sept. 20 through 3 p.ml. Sept. 21, taking shifts in an effor to keep the POW/MIA flag in motion for the 24-hour event.

At Naval Air Station Pensacola, more than 300 U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps service members attended the Vigil Run opening ceremony, with several of those service members volunteering to walk or run circuits of the courtyard from 3 p.m. Sept. 20 through 3 p.m. Sept. 21, taking shifts in an effort to keep the POW/MIA flag in motion for the 24-hour event.

359th Training Squadron Instructor Tech. Sgt. Matthew Barnes said the event creates awareness of the nearly 131,000 U.S. service members who have been classified as prisoners of war, as well as the 82,000 still missing in action, to ensure the memories of sacrifices made by service members from years past are not forgotten.

“Prisoners of War are held captive 24-hours a day, 365 days a year,” he said. “This is not a well-known day that we recognize every year, and we wanted to start this run today [Sept. 20] and continue it for 24 hours to symbolize the vigilance and courage those POWs must have had daily while held in captivity.”

Guest speakers at the Pensacola event included former POW U.S. Navy Capt. (ret.) Robert Doremus, a radar intercept officer who spent nearly 2,800 days in captivity in Vietnam and was released from captivity during Operation Homecoming on Feb. 12, 1973. Doremus was forced to eject from his McDonnell-Douglas F-4 Phantom II over North Vietnam on Aug. 24, 1965.

“The whole time we were there, we were joint forces. We had Marines, we had Air Force, we had Navy – enlisted and officer – and there were some civilians,” he said. “You followed your creed and you became part of a team. And the whole idea is that of the ‘team,’ and that’s what it looks like out there when you see these troops running, marching, and standing at attention – they’re a team. That’s how it works, and that’s how it worked in prison.”

NAS Pensacola Command Master Chief Mario Rivers said: “No matter the uniform that you wear, we’re all brothers in arms and we could all be put in harm’s way.”

“Here at NAS Pensacola we’re joint – one team, one effort, and that’s something we try to stress no matter if you’re Air Force, Army, Navy, Marine Corps or Coast Guard. There’s a rich history in our country who went to the front lines and served their country honorably. It’s incumbent on us as leaders to ensure that we keep that legacy alive for years to come.”

SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Members of Team Schriever participate in the monthly warfit run 15 September while paying tribute to the nation’s POW/MIA. The tribute is an annual occurence where volunteer runners carry the POW/MIA flag for 24 hours culminating with a flag raising at reveille. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Dennis Rogers)
Members of Joint Base Langley-Eustis complete the POW/MIA 24-hour run and walk during the National POW/MIA Recognition Day closing ceremony at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Va., Sept. 15, 2016. The run was dedicated to POW/MIA and runners carried the flag continuously for 24-hours until it was hoisted at the closing ceremony by the Langley Honor Guard. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kimberly Nagle)
SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Members of Team Schriever participate in the monthly warfit run 15 September while paying tribute to the nation’s POW/MIA. The tribute is an annual occurence where volunteer runners carry the POW/MIA flag for 24 hours culminating with a flag raising at reveille. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Dennis Rogers)
SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Peter Aronson, 19th Space Operations Squadron, carries the POW/MIA flag for his leg of the tribute run 16 September. The tribute is an annual occurence where volunteer runners carry the POW/MIA flag for 24 hours culminating with a flag raising at reveille. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Dennis Rogers)

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