VETERANS OF FOREIGN WARS OF THE U.S.
POW / MIA SPEECH
NATIONAL POW / MIA RECOGNITION DAY
September 16, 2005
Thank you for joining us on National POW/MIA Recognition Day. I am honored to be here today to help you salute the men and women who have served and sacrificed to keep America free … and to salute the families of the missing who continue to keep the candle of hope alive.
Today there are 88,000 Americans listed as missing and unaccounted-for from our nation’s wars going back to the beginning of World War II.
That’s 88,000 military and civilian men and women … mothers and fathers … brothers and sisters … and sons and daughters.
World War II officially ended 60 years ago this month, a war that — for America — lasted less than four years, but one that claimed more than 400,000 American lives, saw more than 130,000 Americans taken as prisoners of war, and one that continues to list more than 78,000 Americans as missing in action.
Five years later, America again found itself at war — in Korea — and in three bloody years, more than 35,000 Americans died in-theater, more that 7,100 were taken captive, and more than 8,100 continue to be listed as missing in action.
Then came the 11-year involvement in Vietnam, a war that resulted in more than 58,000 American deaths in-theater, almost 800 POWs, and more than 2,500 missing and unaccounted-for Americans … a number that is now nearing 1,800 because of the tremendous search and recovery efforts of the U.S. Government, especially the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command.
As we pause to remember their sacrifices today, we must also remember the sacrifices that the families of the missing continue to give.
It’s true that the costs of war extend far beyond the last shots being fired, and for the MIA families, the passage of time does not heal their wounds. For them, the days became weeks, and the weeks became months, then years, and now, sadly, decades.
I cannot imagine the daily loss I would feel if my mother or father had gone to war and didn’t return. I cannot imagine reliving the moment the government couldn’t tell me if my brother or sister was alive or dead. And I cannot imagine my emotions if that missing person was my son or my daughter.
This, ladies and gentlemen, this is what the families have to live with … day in and day out. They want answers to questions where there may be none or are slow in coming.
They are not asking unreasonable questions, nor do the families have different agendas. All they want to know is what happened to their loved one. That is not too much for them to ask, and that is not too much for our government to answer, or for other governments to help us answer.
Today, this nation reaffirms its resolve to achieve the fullest possible accounting of those who are missing. As veterans and family members of veterans, we, too, must do our part to remember their service and their sacrifice.
Seek out the former POWs and the families of the missing in your communities and ask them to publicly tell their stories so that our children and their children will understand the service and sacrifice that’s required when America calls upon its military.
Teach America about World War II … about a time when a nation of 133 million citizens put 16 million of them into uniform to help save the world from tyranny.
Teach them about Korea — the Forgotten War — but one just as brutal as any conflict in our nation’s history.
Teach them about Vietnam … about how our nation turned its back on an entire generation of soldiers because its citizens couldn’t disassociate the war from the warrior.
And teach them about Operation Desert Storm — the first Gulf War — when America vowed to never again turn its back on its warriors … when America regained its pride for those who wear the uniform of our country.
People who put others before themselves is the story of America … the America that rose to greatness on the shoulders of ordinary citizens who refused to shirk the responsibility of citizenship … some of whom paid the highest price to preserve peace and freedom for others to enjoy.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention those involved in the U.S. Government’s full accounting mission … the records analysts, the DNA scientists and equipment specialists … and most important, the 425 military and Defense Department civilians working at the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, or J-PAC.
J-PAC carries on a proud tradition first established in 1973 to keep the military’s promise to never leave a comrade behind.
From of the glaciers of Tibet and mountains of North Korea … to the jungles of Southeast Asia and the deserts of Southwest Asia … J-PAC operates under extremely arduous conditions in some of the most austere and hazardous locations on Earth.
The unit has suffered personal loss while conducting their operations, but their mission continues unabated, and that’s to obtain the fullest possible accounting of our nation’s 88,000 missing Americans.
VFW leaders have visited Southeast Asia every year since 1991 to meet with U.S. and host government officials to discuss and stress the importance of the full accounting mission to the families of those missing and to the VFW membership.
We know how difficult the full accounting mission is — but we also know how important the mission is for our nation — and that’s why the VFW has so much appreciation and gratitude for the military and civilian members of J-PAC.
In closing, let us recommit ourselves to remaining strong in our devotion to the principles for which so many courageously fought and sacrificed.
Let us remember those who put country before self and did not return home to their families.
Let us remember the families of the missing who continue to burn the candle of hope.
And let us continue to tell America the story that without the service and sacrifice of the American serviceman and woman, there would not have been a United States of America.
May God bless our former prisoners of war.
May God bless the memory of the missing and their families.
May God keep our men and women in uniform safe and their families strong.
And may God continue to bless the United States of America.
Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office
Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command
Armed Forces DNA Laboratory
American Ex-Prisoners of War
Vietnam Prisoners of War
National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia
Coalition of Families of Korean and Cold War POW/MIAs
Search The Washington Office Website
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