POW/MIA stands for prisoner of war and missing in action. In the United States, National POW/MIA Recognition Day is observed on the third Friday of September each year. On this day, we remember all the servicemen and women who were prisoners of war (POWs) and those who are still missing in action (MIA), as well as their families.
POW/MIA Recognition Day was established by President Jimmy Carter in 1979. The resolution was passed after the families of the more than 2,500 Vietnam War POW/MIAs pushed for full accountability. Since then, each year on this day, each president has signed an annual proclamation for the commemoration.
It is disheartening to see that there are still more than 81,000 Americans missing from WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, and the Gulf Wars and other conflicts. The task of finding our missing in action has been undertaken by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. They work tirelessly to provide information to the families of these servicemen and women as well as our country.
Throughout September, you may see the POW/MIA flag displayed. The face of the flag has a silhouette of a prisoner of war before a guard tower and barbed wire in white and black. “POW/MIA” appears above the silhouette and the words “YOU ARE NOT FORGOTTEN” appear below the silhouette. The flag is in black and white to represent sorrow, anxiety, and hope.
Displaying the POW/MIA flag is one way to honor our military personnel who were taken prisoner or are missing in action. You may also want to show your support of National POW/MIA Recognition Day by attending veteran rallies or events that honor POWs and MIAs in your community with your family and learning more about the POW/MIA remembrance movement and its history.
Another option to honor our POWs and MIAs is to visit memorials dedicated to the POWs and MIAs.
There is a commemorative chair at Emancipation Hall in the Capitol Visitor Center in Washington, D.C. which has the following statement engraved on it:
Let this empty chair serve as a memorial to those who served in the military of our great nation but have not returned home to us.
They are Prisoners of War and Missing in Action.
America will forever be grateful for your bravery and sacrifice in service to our nation. We will never forget.
There is also a Flame of Hope monument located in Virginia Beach, Virginia. This monument was created for the Vietnam prisoners of war and those missing in action. There is a flame that burns continuously and will remain burning until the return of all POW and MIAs.
There are many ways to show support, but one of the most important is to forever remember the sacrifices that our veterans make for us every day in order for us to live in a country where we enjoy freedom.