Veterans, military families and community leaders joined together to remember servicemen and women from various wars who were held prisoner or are still missing in action.
A solemn National POW/MIA Recognition Day Ceremony was held in their honor on Friday, Sept. 21 at Fort Hamilton Army Base in Bay Ridge.
James Steinberg served as master of ceremonies. He welcomed state Sen. Marty Golden and explained that National POW/MIA Recognition Day is an annual event that honors former prisoners of war who are missing in action and their families.
The first National POW/MIA Recognition Day was on July 18, 1971 and it is now observed across the nation on the third Friday of September every year.
“The importance of the POW/MIA flag lies in its continued visibility,” Steinberg said. “It is a constant reminder of the plight of America’s prisoners of war or missing in action.” Besides Old Glory, the MIA/POW flag is the only
other flag to ever fly over the White House, having been displayed there since 1982.
Garrison Chaplain Maj. Bruce Duty offered the invocation.
A small table set for one was set up in front of the room in memory of the soldiers missing from the ranks. There were five hats on the table representing the different branches of the armed services and an empty chair where they should have been seated.
There was also a red rose in a vase signifying the blood they shed for their country and a candle of hope to help light their way home.
Sgt. First Class Jorge Lopez played Taps in memory of Sen. John McCain, and all former POWs that died this past year.
Garrison Command Sgt. Maj. LaShan Hayes introduced three former POWs from the Brooklyn Key Chapter American Ex-Prisoners of War who were in the audience. James Faulkner served in the Korean War, and Harold Radish and Satiris (Sonny) Fassoulis were POWs during World War II.
“We had three great honorees this year,” Golden told this paper. “The oldest was 93, one was 87 and the youngest of the lot was 83. And let us not forget John McCain who was a POW for five years while serving this great country.”
Command Sgt. Maj. Javier Lugo, Joint Task Force Empire Shield, was the guest speaker. “I was astonished to learn that the number of missing in action was between 80 and 90,000,” Lugo said. “That’s the equivalent of the population of Trenton, New Jersey. Imagine a whole city being missing in the United States.
“The number of POWs from the Revolutionary War to the present is somewhere around 500,000, and includes the Civil War,” he went on, “astronomical numbers that remind us that freedom comes with a price that many have paid so that we can live the lives we enjoy today.”