Friday, Sept.18, 2009 is National POW/MIA Recognition Day. The United Statesâ€™ National POW/MIA Recognition Day is observed across the nation on the third Friday of September each year. Many Americans take the time to remember those who were prisoners of war (POW) and those who are missing in action (MIA), as well as their families.
The President is expected to issue a proclamation commemorating the observances and reminding the nation of those Americans who have sacrificed so much for their country.
Observances of National POW/MIA Recognition Day are held across the country on military installations, ships at sea, state capitols, 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 to be flown at major military installations, national cemeteries, all post offices, VA medical facilities, the World War II Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the official offices of the secretaries of state, defense and veterans affairs, the director of the selective service system and the White House.
What do people do?
Many Americans across the United States pause to remember the sacrifices and service of those who were prisoners of war (POW), as well as those who are missing in action (MIA), and their families. All military installations fly the National League of Familiesâ€™ POW/MIA flag, which symbolizes the nationâ€™s remembrance of those who were imprisoned while serving in conflicts and those who remain missing.
Veteran rallies take place in many states, such as Wisconsin, in the United States on National POW/MIA Recognition Day. United States flags and POW/MIA flags are flown on this day and joint prayers are made for POWs and those missing in action. National POW/MIA Recognition Day posters are also displayed at college or university campuses and public buildings to promote the day. Remembrance ceremonies and other events to observe the day are also held in places such as the Pentagon, war memorials and museums.
There are 1,741 American personnel listed by the Defense Department’s POW/MIA Office as missing and unaccounted for from the Vietnam War, as of April 2009. The number of United States personnel accounted for since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975 is 841. About 90 percent of the 1,741 people still missing were lost in Vietnam or areas of Laos and Cambodia under Vietnam’s wartime control, according to the National League of Families website (cited in the United States Army website).
The United States Congress passed a resolution authorizing National POW/MIA Recognition Day to be observed on July 18, 1979. It was observed on the same date in 1980 and was held on July 17 in 1981 and 1982. It was then observed on April 9 in 1983 and July 20 in 1984. The event was observed on July 19 in 1985, and then from 1986 onwards the date moved to the third Friday of September. The United States president each year proclaims National POW/MIA Recognition Day. Many states in the USA also proclaim POW/MIA Recognition Day together with the national effort.
The National League of Familiesâ€™ POW/MIA flag symbolizes the United Statesâ€™ resolve to never forget POWs or those who served their country in conflicts and are still missing. Newt Heisley designed the flag. The flagâ€™s design features a silhouette of a young man, which is based on Mr Heisleyâ€™s son, who was medically discharged from the military. As Mr Heisley looked at his returning sonâ€™s gaunt features, he imagined what life was for those behind barbed wire fences on foreign shores. He then sketched the profile of his son as the new flag’s design was created in his mind.
Mr. Heisley with the flag
The flag features a white disk bearing in black silhouette a manâ€™s bust, a watch tower with a guard on patrol, and a strand of barbed wire. White letters â€œPOWâ€ and â€œMIAâ€, with a white five-pointed star in between, are typed above the disk. Below the disk is a black and white wreath above the motto â€œYou Are Not Forgottenâ€ written in white, capital letters.