KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Prisoners of war and people missing in action are harsh realities of the risks associated with being military personnel; enlisted, commissioned or civilian. Once a year, the third Friday in September, those who still maintain POW/MIA status are honored and remembered.
This past week, Kadena Air Base held several events in reverence of the remarkable sacrifices of all POW/MIA’s, including a 24-hour marathon in which more than 2,200 miles were run and 2,000 names were read.
“It’s about honoring all the POW/MIA’s and their families when we hold any events during this time of year,” Chief Master Sgt. Kenneth E. Huhman, the 320th Special Tactics Squadron career enlisted advisor said. “We as service members will never forget those members who are still lost, and it reminds us to always be vigilant.”
Following the remembrance run, members of the 320th STS ran the POW/MIA flag to Chapel One on Kadena for the remembrance ceremony, which was followed by a motorcycle ride from the chapel to gate three.
The POW/MIA flag was originally designed in 1972 by Newt Heisley for the National League of Families. In August 1990, the flag became officially recognized by the United States government.
“Seeing all the services come together for this is very rewarding because it’s for the POW/MIA’s and their families that we do it. To honor the hardships they had to endure for our freedom and way of life,” said Huhman.
Besides the meaning the flag carries itself, many people have personal beliefs of what the flag stands for.
“Since a young age the POW/MIA flag has meant far more to me,” Lt. Col. Patrick Lowe, Combat Rescue Officer and director of operations with the 31st Rescue Squadron said. “It’s not only for the POW/MIA’s to me, it’s for anyone who served in the Vietnam War, asking for forgiveness for not accepting them the way they should have been when they returned.”
The US military conducts missions in several different countries throughout the world in search of those who are still missing,; the search continues to bring fallen comrades home and provide their families the closure they deserve.
“The committed individuals and the teams we have to prevent POW/MIA situations from happening-- it’s amazing what our country will do to prevent people getting captured,” said Col. Christopher Amrhein, 18th Wing vice commander. “Almost 80,000 people are still out there, and while there is a national recognition day, recognition day for the families without their loved ones is every day. That’s something to think about for the day, for the rest of the year, and maybe for the rest of your service.”