Veterans of all ages, along with their friends and family, gathered at American Legion Post 1456 to remember their brothers in arms who were – and are – prisoners of war and soldiers missing in action.
Attendees called on their loved ones to “never forget” those still unaccounted for who have served from World War II to current conflicts all over the world.
The hour long event included two ceremonies – the empty chair ceremony and a candlelight vigil.
The empty chair ceremony consists of many symbols that represent both the soldier that is still missing and his or her family.
Among the symbols are the red ribbon on the vase – a ribbon which is commonly worn on a soldier’s lapel – which demands that that soldier’s family receive a proper account of what happened to their family member.
In addition, the salt sprinkled on the plate, represents the countless tears of the family members who are waiting to find out what happened to their loved one.
“Let us remember to never forget their sacrifice, and may God watch over them and protect their families,” said Vietnam War veteran Tony Salimbine.
For the candlelight vigil, many attendees were handed a candle attached to a piece of paper with the name of a POW or MIA.
After the name was read, the individual would blow out the candle.
Some chose to honor the person on the candle by saying a short prayer or saluting before blowing out the candle.
According to Vietnam War era Veteran Gerry Artz, the number of POW’s and persons missing in action stands at 1,587.
“Those who’ve fought for the freedoms we hold dear – past, present and future – must have confidence they will not be left behind if they are captured or become missing said Artz.
He added it is the current administration responsibility to maintain a level of accountability when it comes to soldiers who have not returned home.
“The Vietnam generation are all senior citizens now,” said Commander Joseph Faix. “What you try to do is, you want to connect the generations. You want someone to find out about their grandfather or in some cases even their great grandfather.”
Faix who was a Marine that served in Operation Desert Storm, added, “To learn about the history of this country and about what families have gone through and are still going through I think is a little bit more important than the next iPhone that’s coming out.”
The commander added the American Legion is hoping to keep pressure on local politicians and Congress so they may help the families who are still missing loved ones get closure.