By Lea Johnson
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — From the beginning of World War II to present day, there are 83,414 American service members who are listed as missing in action.
During the annual Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Recognition Day ceremony, Sept. 21 at the Peterson AFB chapel, Col. Chris Crawford, 21st Space Wing commander, gave that very specific number of our nation’s missing and put it in context.
“Uncertainty is part of military service, but the sacrifice of families of those who are missing is unparalleled,” Crawford said. “Wounds are slow to heal. Gnawing questions last a lifetime if not resolved. Today we remember and reaffirm our nation’s commitment to the fullest possible accounting of our POWS and our MIAs.”
Dennis McCormack, retired Army Chief Warrant Officer 5, spoke about his experience as a Vietnam veteran, and about the work he and numerous others have done to uncover the fate of countless missing service members.
“No other country in the world puts as much emphasis on honoring our POWs and remembering our service members who are missing in action,” he said. “No other country in the world comes close to the commitment the United States of America has made for a full accounting of those who are not home yet.”
According to McCormack, the observance of POW/MIA Recognition Day started July 18, 1979, and was held on various dates each year until 1986 when the third Friday of September was selected as the official date for all future remembrances.
“It is significant that a month and week of the year were chosen where there would be no overlap with any other national remembrance, so that it would stand alone in prominence during its annual observance,” he said.
Honored at the ceremony were three World War II POWs, Edwin H. Beck, Charles Blaney, and Lester Stroup. Also in attendance was Elaine D. Mosburg, wife of Capt. Henry Lee Mosburg, who is listed as MIA from the Vietnam War, 1966.
“The families of the missing never really completely give up hope, and that is what this day and the POW/MIA flag symbolize, the hope that someday we will know what happened to all of our missing men and women,” McCormack said.
According to Crawford, since last year’s ceremony, 63 service members, dating back to World War II, have been accounted for.
The POW/MIA flag was raised during reveille Sept. 19 and lowered during a special retreat ceremony Sept. 20. For the intervening 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.
“Our armed forces still put their lives on the line but they know the U.S. will never ever give up on them nor their drive for closure if they are captured or if they go missing,” Crawford said.