You Are Not Forgotten: National POW/MIA Recognition Day

Since the advent of war, soldiers have been taken as prisoners or disappeared amidst the conflict. However, it was not until a few decades ago that an official day of observance was established to recognize and commemorate American troops who had undergone these experiences. Read on to discover the story behind POW/MIA Recognition Day, the symbolic POW/MIA flag, and how to support the search for missing soldiers and their families.

The History of National POW/MIA Recognition Day

Even though American soldiers have been taken as prisoners of war or gone missing in action since World War I and earlier conflicts, it was not until 1979 that the US government formally recognized the efforts and sacrifices of these troops. In the six years following the withdrawal of American soldiers from Vietnam in 1973, families of troops who had not returned home from the Vietnam War pushed the US government to provide answers and take accountability for the missing. Thus ‘National POW/MIA Recognition Day’ was born when Congress and President Jimmy Carter passed a resolution to create the observance to be held on the third Friday of every September.

Ways You Can Honor a POW/MIA Soldier

One of the main ways to directly support the search for missing troops is through the Department of Defense’s POW/MIA Accounting Agency. This governmental organization aims to identify and locate missing service members and provide their families with as much information as possible. The Agency accepts donations and runs an extensive volunteer program involving civilians and active-duty military.

Another way to honor America’s missing soldiers is by supporting their families. On National POW/MIA Recognition Day, events are held nationwide for people to come together and remember those who have not yet come home. By attending and commemorating POW/MIA service members or displaying pins, bracelets, and flags bearing the POW/MIA emblem, you can show solidarity with the missing troops and their families in your community and nationwide.

How the POW/MIA Flag Came to Be

One of the most recognizable symbols of the search for missing soldiers is the POW/MIA flag, which like the national day of observance, originated during the Vietnam War. In 1971, Mary Hoff, a member of the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia, came up with the idea to create a unifying emblem. The final design was created by Newt Heisley, an artist who served as a pilot during World War II. Following the war, Heisley worked as a commercial artist when he was contracted to design a flag for Annin Flagmakers based on Mary Hoff’s request.

The black and white flag that Heisley designed represents the experiences of soldiers who were taken as prisoners of war, showing a guard tower and barbed wire behind the figure of a gaunt man. The silhouette was based on Heisley’s son Jeffrey, a Marine Corps member who was at the time preparing to be shipped out to Vietnam.

Today, the search for POW/MIA soldiers continues, with the Accounting Agency estimating 81,000 missing from World War II and later conflicts. By directly supporting the investigation, helping families of missing soldiers find solidarity, or displaying POW/MIA symbols, you can honor the American troops who have not yet come home and fulfill our nation’s promise that the lives and efforts of these people are never forgotten.

Aug 15, 2023 Caeden F.

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