Kadena observes POW/MIA Recognition Day

by Airman 1st Class Zackary A. Henry, 18th Wing Public Affairs
Kadena Air Base

KADENA AIR BASE, Japan  -- Every year, on the third Friday in September, the nation takes time to reflect on those Americans who paid the ultimate price for their country during National Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Recognition Day.

This day is a somber celebration of those who have returned and a remembrance of those who have not yet come home.

"Currently, there are over 83,114 service members still missing since World War II," said Senior Master Sgt. Caleb W. Ethridge, 31st Rescue Squadron superintendent. "What's more, 75 percent of those are from this theater, Pacific Command."

Ethridge went on to say with confidence, "...that one day we will be able to bring most of those folks home due to our advancements in technology and ability to identify remains."

To commemorate the 35th anniversary of National POW/MIA Recognition Day, members of team Kadena hosted multiple events around the base. POW/MIA Recognition Day events honor our missing service members and their families. These events highlighted our commitment as service members to account for them.

The Air Force Sergeants Association's Chapter 1553 hosted a 24-hour POW/MIA vigil run Sept. 17 and POW/MIA Remembrance Ceremony Sept. 18. The run started at Merrick Park and involved more than 600 civilian and military members from Team Kadena, each having the opportunity to carry the POW/MIA flag around the route for their portion of its journey.

Members of Team Kadena also paid their respects with a sky lantern ceremony at the Kadena Marina and the following day was the POW/MIA Remembrance Ceremony marking the end of the vigil run and the final destination point for the POW/MIA flag at the Kadena Officer's Club.

At the officer's club was a breakfast ceremony and the events concluded with a motorcycle memorial ride from the officer's club, around Kadena and then up to Cape Zampa at the northern end of the island.

"The events here on Okinawa are somewhat special to me," said Senior Master Sgt. Jesse Frank, 18th Security Forces plans and programs superintendent. "Being here in Japan, on Okinawa, it is as if moving about on hallowed grounds. It evokes sobering thoughts as one remembers the many soldiers, sailors, Marines, Airmen and civilians who went missing in action from the many battles that were fought on the very grounds upon which we tread."

As the Air Force Sergeants Association president, Frank, was responsible for ensuring this year's tribute on National POW/MIA Recognition Day was appropriate and exceptional. He had a hand in all the events; however he mentioned he was far from truly leading and organizing them.

"A great deal of credit goes to the immense work and effort contributed by the men and women of AFSA Chapter 1553 and the many joint service volunteers that devoted a lot to make it all possible," said Frank.

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