By Tazanyia Mouton, USAG-Natick Public Affairs November 13, 2013
NATICK, Mass. (Nov. 12, 2013) -- Today, there are still more than 83,000 American troops missing in action, according to the Department of Defense Prisoner of War-Missing Personnel Office.
That includes almost 74,000 from World War II; nearly 8,000 from the Korean War; more than 1,600 from the Vietnam War; 126 during the Cold War; and six from the Iraq War and other conflicts.
Darren Bean, the representative for the veterans of the Natick Soldier Systems Center, wanted to remember those who were and still are prisoners of war and missing in action.
"We worked with the garrison staff, veterans on post and different resources for veterans on how they can help," Bean said.
Ultimately, they decided to make the chair a gift from the veterans on the installation.
"We want to provide this permanent gift of hope and remembrance for those who are POW and MIA," Bean said.
The POW/MIA memorial is often seen in places such as parks and gardens to serve as a remembrance for those veterans.
"(The) POW/MIA issue is very near and dear to all of us veterans, because we could have been there one day," Bean said. "We never leave a fallen comrade, and there are some that are still prisoners or die in captivity. It's up to us to offer that symbol (of) hope and remembrance … that they come back, and (we) remember those who haven't come back."
Local motorcycle group Rolling Thunder began the process to have these chairs and benches placed at dozens of cities and towns around the area. Joe D'Entremont, president of the Massachusetts chapter of Rolling Thunder started an initiative to have a chair placed at all major sporting venues in the state.
"Gillette Stadium, Fenway Park and the TD Garden all have POW chairs," Bean said, "unoccupied seats in memorial to (those) still listed as prisoners of war and missing in action."
The chair, made of granite, was placed outside Building 1 as a standing memorial to everyone affected.
"That way, everybody sees it, and that's what it's all about … awareness," Bean said.
POW survivor William Skipper, a man of few words spent about three years in captivity during the Korean War. During that time, he remained hopeful and steadfast. Skipper said after he wasn't killed within the first hour of being captured, he had no fear.
Skipper said seeing another POW/MIA chair in place meant a lot to him.
"I just got my Korean War veterans magazine, and it said there were seven bodies found that were sent home in the past month," Skipper said. "We're still there."