By Mass Communication Specialist Seaman William Blees, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West, Det. Northwest
KEYPORT, Wash. – Active Duty, reserve, and retired service members along with military family members and civilians attended a ceremony to pay tribute to POW/MIA Recognition Day at the Naval Undersea Warfare Museum, Sept. 20.
The 5th annual ceremony’s emerging theme was “Keeping the Promise”. The theme honors America’s promise to continue the search for POW/MIA service members until they are found and brought home.
“POW/MIA recognition day is a day of remembrance,” said Capt. Dave Kohnke, Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Keyport commander. “This is a day we must not ignore, just as we must not ignore our uniformed personnel and those who never made it home.”
Kohnke continued onward and illustrated how many of our service members are still POW/MIA by stating that more than 80,000 men and women are still out there.
He also discussed the measures that Joint Prisoner of War/Missing In Action Accounting Command (JPAC) is taking to find and bring home our heroes.
“JPAC teams are on site in 11 countries trying to find remains,” said Kohnke “The United States is doing what it can to keep the promise.”
JPAC’s everyday operations involve researching case files, investigating leads, excavating sites and identifying Americans who were killed in action and never made it home.
During the ceremony, Navy Band Northwest performed the national anthem while Sailors assigned to NUWC Keyport passed the National Ensign prior to raising it for morning colors.
“It makes me proud to be part of the military,” said Master Chief Navy Diver Chad Leaman. “It’s an overwhelming sense of pride that our nation remembers our fallen heroes.”
During the ceremony the missing man table was displayed in remembrance of our servicemembers who can’t be with us.
“We all took a solemn oath when we put on our uniform. Today, we honor those who made that oath,” said Kohnke. “We, the United States of America, will not forget that.”
The United States’ pays homage to National POW/MIA Recognition Day across the nation on the third Friday of September every year. Many Americans and their families take time to remember those who were prisoners of war and those who are still missing in action.
“Keeping the promise has a profound impact on families and ripples across the nation,” said Kohnke.
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 five others are Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day and Veterans Day.
Naval Air Station Whidbey Island also held a POW/MIA ceremony Sept. 20.