More than 83,000 members of the United States armed forces are still unaccounted for following past conflicts.
This Friday, Sept. 21, is National POW/MIA Recognition Day. Americans will take time to reflect on those who are missing, but not forgotten and, in Warren County, the event will be marked with an evening ceremony in honor of those missing or imprisoned.
According to Disabled American Veterans (DAV) of Pennsylvania 2nd Vice Commander Walter Simpson, the ceremony has been held in the county for more than 20 years.
Times Observer file photo
For fallen soldiers
The Fallen Soldier Battle Cross, part of the POW MIA service, symbolizes a cross at a soldier’s grave and includes boots, rifle and helmet. Vietnam Veteran Joby McAulay places the helmet on the rifle in this Fallen Soldier Battle Cross at the 2010 POW MIA observance.
"As soon as they announced this type of meeting, Joe Wells was organizing them," Simpson said of the man who helped organize early ceremonies in the county.
This year's ceremony will be held at General Joseph Warren Park at 6:30 p.m., rain or shine.
Simpson said the ceremony is being organized as a joint effort of American Legion Post 135, the Marine Corps League, the John Gertch Memorial Post, AMVETS and Disabled American Veterans Chapter 75.
DAV Chapter 75 Senior Vice Commander Dan Edmiston will serve as master of ceremonies, Fr. Richard Tilley will give a benediction, Simpson will perform the "missing man ceremony", members of the Gertch Memorial Post will provide an honor guard and AmVets National Commander Gary Fry will speak.
"We encourage all people from Warren County to come," Simpson said. "This is a solemn ceremony. This is the third time that I've done it and I've personally known11 POWs because I served in Vietnam. There's a lot of people who can't handle the ceremony. It's too close to home."
Simpson noted the ceremony is to honor of all those who have gone unaccounted for during military operations, whether service men and women, government agent or even civilians serving in combat zones. A table with place settings and empty places will be set to commemorate the missing and will include a place without an armed service branch hat to mark it, he said.
"It's a sad state of affairs that we don't honor the veterans more," Simpson said. "Without them, we wouldn't have a country as we know it."
In addition to Friday's POW/MIA ceremony, Simpson noted a fish fry is planned for the following weekend to raise funds for the DAV and Wounded Warriors.