NATIONAL POW/MIA RECOGNITION DAY

THE ISSUE: Missing Americans from America’s conflicts.

OUR OPINION: Closure is needed for the MIA families.

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A little-known government agency’s mission is to find, identify and return fallen military personnel. It combs the land and ocean floors searching for those who have been missing in action — MIA — in American conflicts going back to World War II. The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA.mil), with their values of compassion, teamwork, and respect, focus on an emotional need we all have as human beings for a loved one who is missing: we need completion, an end to the questions we have.

The most recent MIA accounted for now has a name — Andrew Pellerito — who was a Marine corporal mortally wounded in combat on Tarawa, a small, desolate, yet strategic island in the Pacific during World War II. Cpl. Pellerito’s family now has closure after waiting more than 78 years.

Today is National POW/MIA Recognition Day, commemorated on the third Friday in September since 1979. For decades, a presidential proclamation is read to bring us together to remember and honor the members of the Armed Forces who remain missing in action or are prisoners of war. Today serves as a call to action, reminding the nation to rededicate our efforts to bring our patriots home and care for our families awaiting word of their loved ones, families who need closure.

Veterans’ organizations throughout the country and in Citrus County will honor POWs and MIAs today with formal celebrations or prayers. But all year long, many American Legions, Veterans of Foreign Wars organizations, AmVets and other service groups honor our POWs and Missing in Action with a POW/MIA Table.

This tradition is represented by a lonely round table, set for one, which symbolizes our concern will never end for the missing. An empty chair signifies all those Americans who are not here because of conflict, and a black napkin illustrates the emptiness in the hearts of families and friends. A single red rose in a vase encircled with a red ribbon reminds us of those families of the missing and the inspiration of that POW/MIA to answer our nation’s call to arms. Hope for the reunion of that missing person-or closure-is represented by a yellow candle in a holder tied with gold ribbon. A salt shaker implies the tears of the family and-finally-an upturned wine glass reminds us that our POWs/MIAs cannot be with us to drink and share a toast or to join in any festivities.

Those of us who see this table today when we enter a veteran’s organization will be reminded of these symbols. Those of us who cannot see this table are asked to put aside the difficulties we face in this turbulent world and give a moment of thought to the ongoing efforts to bring closure to the families of loved ones who have not returned home.

We need to honor these Americans with the respect shown for centuries, nemo residio, that No Man is Left Behind.