By Airman 1st Class William Tracy
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
SCHRIEVER AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — Schriever Airmen honored the sacrifices of POW/MIA service members during POW/MIA Remembrance Week Sept. 17 — 21.
POW/MIA recognition has been a part in U.S. military history since the first officially documented cases during World War II. In 1979, Congress passed a resolution establishing POW/MIA recognition day the third Friday of every September. Sept. 21 was the 39th anniversary of the event.
“It is our duty to pay the utmost respect to our fellow service members and their families,” said Master Sgt. Damion Parris, operations superintendent with the 50th Civil Engineer Squadron and event lead. “Many are still continuing to pay the ultimate price, and have endured things most of us can’t even imagine.”
The week began with a ceremonial reveille and opening ceremony in which the POW/MIA flag was raised alongside the U.S. flag in front of a formation.
This was followed by a 24-hour run, where Airmen from various squadrons continuously ran with the POW/MIA flag in 30 minute intervals. More than 70 participants carried the flag for a total of 120 miles.
Airman 1st Class Michael Weersma, client systems technician with the 50th Space Communications Squadron, participated in the run and said it was an honor to carry the flag.
“I felt like it was part of my duty,” he said. “It was a rewarding, meaningful experience I would gladly do again next year.”
The week concluded Sept. 21, National POW/MIA Remembrance Day, with U.S. Navy Lt. Robert Wideman, a pilot and POW during the Vietnam War, sharing his story of resilience.
“I was rolling in at 10,000 feet in my fighter jet when I heard a metallic click, and I lost control,” he said.
Wideman crashed over North Vietnam and was soon captured by the enemy, spending years as a POW and was subjected to torture.
“I always say the whole experience was much harder on our families than it is on us,” he said. “We knew our status, our families didn’t have a clue. It destroys families not knowing where their loved ones are.”
Lt. Col. Lewis Sorvillo, deputy commander of the 50th Network Operations Group, said Wideman’s speech was inspirational and highlighted what it means to wear the uniform and the sacrifices that come with it.
“I couldn’t even imagine going through what he went through,” Sorvillo said. “His story was moving and reinforced the importance of what we do.”
According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agencies website, more than 82,000 American service members remain missing from World War II onwards, 41,000 presumed lost at sea. Many of those taken as POW’s are never found.
Parris said he was honored and privileged to lead the base in recognizing those who made the ultimate sacrifice serving the nation.
“I would like to thank the men and women of Schriever Air Force Base for their support on making these events happen,” he said. “We must never forget those men and women who have given all to defend freedom and the American way of life.”