By Airman 1st Class David Phaff, 47th Flying Training Wing Public Affairs
/ Published September 22, 2020
Chief Master Sgt. Robert L. Zackery III, 47th FTW command chief master sergeant, carries the prisoner of war and missing in action flag while walking around the track on Sept. 17, 2020 at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas. The flag is a symbol of our Nation's concern and commitment to resolving, as fully as possible, the fates of Americans still prisoner, missing and unaccounted. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class David Phaff)
Col. Craig Prather, 47th Flying Training Wing commander, gives his opening remarks at the prisoner of war and missing in action vigil on Sept. 17, 2020, Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas. The event is a 24-hour run/walk and is held to honor and raise awareness for POW/MIA throughout military conflicts. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class David Phaff)
Tech. Sgt. Christopher Johnson, Honor Guard NCO in charge, runs around the track while carrying the prisoner of war and missing in action flag on Sept. 17, 2020 at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas. Johnson ran the track while proudly carrying the flag to show his respect and raise awareness of POW/MIA military members. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class David Phaff)
Team XL hosted a 24-hour vigil on Sept. 17, 2020, to honor past and current prisoners of war (POW) and those who are missing in action (MIA).
Many Americans across the United States pause to remember the sacrifices and service of those who were POWs, MIA, and their families.
Members of team XL came out to help raise awareness and show their appreciation and support for those who are affected. The 24-hour event brings everyone from all around base together to acknowledge those who did not get to come home, and helps keep them alive in memory.
According to the Defense POW/MIA accounting agency. At present, more than 81,900 Americans are missing from WWII, Korean War, Vietnam War, Cold War, the Gulf Wars and other conflicts.
The ceremony began with opening remarks from Colonel Prather, the 47th Flying Training Wing commander.
“It’s a day of reflection,” said Prather. “It's about reflecting on our commitment to our brothers and sisters in arms that when you serve our country, if you're imprisoned or missing, we will not forget about you and we will not stop looking for you.”
In 1979 Congress announced every third Friday of September be used to observe POW/MIA day.
“It's a day of remembrance to honor wartime service members captured and or missing, who are still unaccounted for,” said Tech. Sgt. Timothy Loundenback, 47th Security Forces flight chief. “It’s something very important that we as team XL continue to honor and remember those individuals through the 24-hour vigil.”
This event is meant to honor, support and raise awareness for the people who are POW and MIA.
“I think the first premise is to make sure we understand it's not a thing, these are people that we honor,” said Chief Master Sgt. Robert L. Zackery III, 47th FTW command chief master sergeant. “I look at them as one of us as family, so we’re honoring the men and women who sacrifice their lives. Some of whom are still missing in action.”
Tech. Sgt. Christopher Johnson, Honor Guard NCO in charge, has firsthand experience in honoring POWs and their families. As the honor guard program manager, Johnson coordinated military honors for two POWs, one of whom was U.S. Congressman, retired Col. Samuel Robert Johnson, former prisoner of war and prior Thunderbird pilot.
“I have personal experience now with burying or being there for the military funeral honors for two POWs,” said Johnson. “So it definitely hit home because now I have a connection with someone who was.”
No matter where they are held, these National POW/MIA Recognition Day ceremonies share the common purpose of honoring those who were held captive and returned, as well as those who remain missing. Waiting to take that last flight home.