SHEPPARD AIR BASE, TX – A black and white flag fluttered in the wind just below the American flag here on September 16, 2021, the silhouette of a man the focal point of the now recognized symbol for prisoners of war and missing persons.
According to the Defense POW / MIA Accounting Agency, more than 81,000 U.S. military personnel are still missing during World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, the Gulf Wars and other conflicts. Although unaccounted for, POW / MIA Day ensures that prisoners of war or the missing are never forgotten, the motto inscribed on the flag.
Joel Jimenez, an Army Combat Infantryman during the Vietnam War and commanding officer of the local American Disabled Veterans Chapter in Wichita Falls, was the guest of honor at this year’s POW / MIA retirement ceremony. He was presented with a POW / MIA flag in a shadow box during the event.
Brig. Gen. Lyle K. Drew, commander of the 82nd Training Wing and host of this year’s retirement service, said it is important to have these events every year to remember those who served before and to pause and recognize the ultimate sacrifice that many of them paid.
The general recalled Sheppard AFB’s role during the Vietnam War when American prisoners of war returned home after, in some cases, years of captivity. In 1973, Sheppard was a regional facility used in Operation Homecoming during the Vietnam War, as POWs were repatriated when they returned home.
Even the Airman’s Creed, he said, contains a reminder that “We will never leave an aviator behind,” he said. This was seen recently when the DPMAA announced the remains of the Army Air Force Sgt. Francis W. Wiemerslage, a 20-year-old ball turret gunner on a B-17 Flying Fortress during World War II, was recovered on August 24, 2021.
“So even today – several weeks ago – efforts continue so that we can bring every soldier, sailor, airman and navy home to the United States of America,” the general said. “So we thank the efforts of those who continue to do the hard work and diligence to not only make sure that we remember them, but bring them home to their family members and are accounted for so that they. can be remembered forever. “
A POW / MIA ceremonial table sat to the left of the audience with five place settings representing the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard, Marines and Navy. Each element that is part of the array has a specific meaning:
• The table is round, testifying to our eternal concern;
• The tablecloth is white, symbolizing the purity of their motivations when responding to the call for service;
• The single red rose reminds us of the lives of those Americans, their families and friends who keep the faith while seeking answers;
• The red ribbon symbolizes our continued uncertainty, our hope for their return and our determination to be accountable;
• A slice of lemon reminds us of their bitter fate, captured or disappeared in a foreign land;
• A pinch of salt symbolizes the tears of our departed and their families;
• The lit candle reflects our hope for their return;
• The Bible represents the strength gained by faith to sustain us and those lost in our country, founded as one nation under God;
• The inverted glass symbolizes their inability to share a toast;
• The empty chairs symbolize the missing.
In addition to the retirement ceremony, the 365th Training Squadron hosted a 24 hour POW / MIA race. At the end of the 24 hours, more than 160 runners had participated in the event, completing 48 consecutive 30-minute sessions for a total of 139 miles.