By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterSeptember 22, 2016
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Fort Rucker reaffirmed its commitment and expressed its thanks to the nation's missing in action and former prisoners of war during a ceremony at Veterans Park Sept. 16.
Col. Robert T. Ault, U.S Army Aviation Center of Excellence chief of staff, spoke during the ceremony to ensure the sacrifices made by service members, both past and present, are remembered, and also to answer the question, "Why are we here today?"
"There are over 82,000 unaccounted U.S. military and civilians to this day … and that 82,000 represents the fathers, brothers, sisters, mothers, sons, daughters and loved ones who have not returned, and nothing can replace that loss," he said. "What does that number actually mean? What does it mean to us as a nation? I would submit that this number represents our national commitment to meet tyranny head on -- to stand in the face of oppression of what is right and not to yield."
Of those 82,000 missing, 73,000 of those are from World War II, over 7,500 from the Korean War, over 1,600 are from the Vietnam War and approximately 132 are from other conflicts, said Ault.
"To all of those who have served, we honor you and thank you for your service and personal courage," said the USAACE chief of staff. "Your sacrifices are vital to our nation and to each and every one of us, as well as our culture."
Ault shared stories of various Soldiers who were captured or missing in action, and shared their stories of bravery in hopes that people don't forget those who were lost.
Stories of those, such as retired Air Force Master Sergeant Arthur Osepchook, who fought in World War II and was taken as a prisoner of war in Germany when his B-17 was shot down over Berlin.
Osepchook, who will celebrate his 93rd birthday in October, was in attendance to pay his respects and said he was grateful for the appreciation and overwhelmed by the support. It was support like this that helped him and his fellow POWs get through their experience.
"I appreciate this, and I came here to pay my respects to the other POWs and those missing in action," he said. "As a POW, you work together to help each other. You save each other and help each other -- that's the main thing."
Osepchook, who was a POW from March of 1944 to May of 1945, said although he and one crewmember survived through the ordeal, he will never forget those who were lost or never recovered.
Ault said that it's because of people like Osepchook and those missing in action that the U.S. is able to enjoy the freedoms it enjoys today, and it's up to each individual to honor those sacrifices.
"I'm reminded of the words of Thomas Jefferson, who said, 'In manners of style, swim with the current, but in manners of principle, stand like a rock.' We're here to stand firm on the ideas that we so dearly cherish -- the principles on which we stand grounded, like a rock, against the current tide of tyranny," said the USAACE chief of staff. "The freedom and security we enjoy today is borne solidly on the backs of those who served this great nation, and continue to do so until the day we bring them all home."