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Remembering those still missing

MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- There are 78,000 still missing from World War II; 8,100 from the Korean War; 1,800 from the Vietnam War; 120 missing dating to the Cold War era, and one missing from the Gulf War, according to the Joint Prisoner Of War / Missing In Action Accounting Command Web site at http://www.jpac.pacom.mil. 

An observant reader might pause for a moment to consider that accountability is much better now than in previous wars and move on. 

A thoughtful reader might pause to think about what the numbers represent - military men and women who marched off to war never to be heard from again. They left behind parents, spouses, children, siblings and comrades still waiting to hear some word of their fate. 

How often do we think about these men and women? 

Those living in Lithia Springs, Ga., thought about Army Chief Warrant Officer Ronald Young, Jr., after March 2003 when he was taken prisoner after his AH-64D Apache Longbow crashed near Karbala, Iraq. 

He was their neighbor who graduated from the Douglasville, Ga., high school and attended Southern Polytechnic State University in Marietta, Ga. Ron's sister, Kelly, told a reporter her brother wanted to learn to fly so, he enlisted in the Army. 

Ron's story had a happy ending because he was found on a road between Tikrit and Baghdad, Iraq, April 13, 2003, along with fellow POWs. He was returned to his family and his home station Fort Hood, Texas. 

Is anyone still looking for these men and women? 

Teams have literally screened dirt in sites located at Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and China to find bone fragments and pieces of clothing - anything that could help identify the missing. 

When discovered, these precious items are then flown to JPAC's Central Identification Laboratory at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii.
Negotiations continue with Japan and Russia to allow access to archives and records that may provide clues to the fate of military personnel missing from the WWII, Korean and Vietnam eras. As of February, 839 military members have been accounted for in Southeast Asia. 

Does anyone remember or care about these people? 

In 1970 the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia was incorporated. They have never ceased their demands for a full accounting. 

The black POW/MIA flag dates back to 1971 and owes its origin to the action of an MIA wife. 

Veterans and others also wear simple steel POW bracelets bearing the names of POWs/MIAs shortly thereafter. 

Another symbol of remembrance is the Missing Man Table and Honors Ceremony, which has become a part of many formal military events. 

Other supporters came together to educate others about those left behind from all wars. This group was incorporated in 1995 as Rolling Thunder, Inc. 

On April 9, 1998, the National Prisoner of War Museum was dedicated at Andersonville National Historic Site, which is just a two-hour drive from Moody. 

In my humble opinion, no one should serve a tour of duty here without making the trip to the museum. 

What can we do? 

Face the reality that anyone in uniform can become a POW or MIA. Anyone who loves someone in uniform could find themselves waiting to hear about the fate of their loved one. 

Keep the memory alive ... attend annual POW-MIA events ... support those organizations seeking to account for those who are mission or killed in action. 

Fly a POW/MIA flag at home or display a flag decal on your automobile.
In doing so, we're are honoring their service and fulfilling their trust that they will never be forgotten.