By Lea Johnson
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — We will not forget.
It was said many times Sept. 16 at a ceremony concluding Prisoner of War and Missing in Action Remembrance Week.
We will not forget.
The POW/MIA flag was raised over Peterson Air Force Base Sept. 12 at Reveille. On Sept. 15 the flag was lowered in a retreat ceremony. For the next 24 hours, the flag was the focal point of a commemorative run around the base to remind everyone of those who are unable to be with us.
Col. Michael Burke, 21st Medical Group commander, said there are more than 90,000 missing service members unaccounted for since World War II.
“Amid all the uncertainties of war, every soldier is entitled to one certainty — that they will not be forgotten,” Burke said.
Honored at the ceremony were three World War II POWs, Edwin H. Beck, Charles Blaney and William Sheaves Jr. The three were captured and held prisoner in Germany, Beck for six months, Blaney for three months, and Sheaves for a year and a half.
Burke and Chief Master Sgt. Thomas Trottier, 21st Space Wing command chief, presented the former POWs with medals.
“You may have to be captured and you may have to surrender, but don’t give up. You’re an American,” Sheaves said.
Army Staff Sgt. John C. Wall IV was the guest speaker at the ceremony. Originally from Navasota, Texas, Wall enlisted in the Army in 2002. Now medically separated, Wall works at LifeQuest Transitions as the military liaison serving service members in the Colorado Springs area.
Wall’s father served three tours in Vietnam. “He once told me that he was never haunted by the men he killed in combat but by the Americans he lost,” Wall said. “We can never forget our duty to bring home all prisoners of war and those missing in action nor can we allow others to ignore its importance.”
The display of the POW/MIA flag symbolizes the United States’ resolve to remember those whose fates are still unknown. “On this day and throughout the year, we can and should pay tribute to these extraordinary American patriots. Thank them for their service and sacrifice and honor them always in our hearts” Burke said.
Burke also mentioned a line from the Airman’s Creed, “I am faithful to a Proud Heritage, A Tradition of Honor, And a Legacy of Valor.”
“I think it’s a true phrase in that code that captures what our ex-POWs that are here with us and those who aren’t and couldn’t be did for this nation, and what we all have expected of us,” Burke said.
For the families of these brave service men and women, there has not been a joyful reunion and their wounds are slow to heal as they wait and hope for closure.
“The sacrifices of the few to protect the many are sometimes lost but I know today standing before a group of heroes that these sacrifices will not be in vain,” Wall said. “We will not let the faces nor the names be forgotten, and we will honor those currently engaged in battle until the day that everyone is home on our great nation’s soil.”