Even when the people we care about are far away, we can always keep them close in our hearts. In times like these, this lesson is more apparent than ever – and it’s an important one to remember on National POW/MIA Recognition Day. This year, that day falls on Sept. 18. It’s dedicated to our nation’s servicemen and women who were prisoners of war (POW) and all those still missing in action (MIA).
On this day, the POW/MIA flag will be flown on all military installations and buildings such as the Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense and Secretary of Veterans Affairs. This distinct black and white flag is flown directly below the United States of America flag and is never flown with any other flags.
Although you may have seen this flag many times before, please stop to consider its meaning the next time you see it: Black and white, the only colors on the flag, represent sorrow, anxiety and hope. The image of a prisoner before a guard tower with barbed wire represents all those who were imprisoned, and those and have yet to return home. But the most important part of the flag remains the words: “You are not forgotten”.
These words are a stark reminder that the exact number of servicemen and women missing in action is still unknown. One group working to correct this is the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, which provides statistics on our missing soldiers. For more information or any assistance, visit their website at www.dpaa.mil.
Many states have memorials established to honor our POWs and MIAs, and ceremonies are often held in their honor. Attending one of these remembrances is a great way to show your support and your gratitude towards our veterans. You can check your local town website for times of these services. If you are not able to attend a service, take time during the day to thank a veteran in your life, or show gratitude in any way that’s personally meaningful to you.
I hope that you will take time to remember the many families who are still waiting for closure as to the fate of their loved ones. Above all, do your best to keep your own families safe, as we remember the veterans who have done so much to protect us.
Ronald G. Rios is the director of the Middlesex County Board of Chosen Freeholders. He writes the occasional column for Newspaper Media Group.