Three veterans in Vietnam War-era olive drab fatigues stood at parade rest as the 2019 observance honoring services members held as prisoners of war or missing in action kicked off at Fort Stewart's Marne Garden Sept. 20.

Veterans from Liberty County, Fort Stewart Soldiers, civilians and family members gathered to recognize the thousands of service members who remain missing from all of the nation's wars.

National POW/MIA Recognition Day is held annually on the third Friday of September. The day honoring missing and captured service members was established in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter and Congress.

The observance included setting the fallen service member table. Fort Stewart garrison senior enlisted leader, Command Sgt. Maj. Rebecca Myers, read the speech detailing each piece of the display.

"This table is set for one, and small, symbolizing the frailty of one prisoner alone against his oppressors," Myers said.

During the setting of the table, Myers said 72,661 World War II veterans; 2,616 Korean War veterans; 1,587 Vietnam War veterans; 126 Cold War veterans; five Gulf War veterans; and one Global War on Terrorism veteran remain missing.

Members of the Vietnam Veterans of America chapter 789 read the names of service members from across Georgia who remain unaccounted for.
Fort Stewart garrison commander Col. Bryan Logan thanked the Liberty County Vietnam veterans for putting together the ceremony. He also reiterated the reason for the observance.

"Today we get to honor a very special group of Americans, our nation's prisoners of war and missing in action," Logan said. "These patriots suffered cruel confinement. Others still remain missing, their fates unknown."

The Department of Defense takes the mission of repatriating missing service members seriously and created a command to find the missing, Logan said.

"Accounting for these Americans continues to be our nation's highest priority," he said. "The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency was established with the mission to provide the fullest accounting procedures for America's missing. Their motto, appropriately, is 'until they are all home.'"

The symbol of POW/MIA Recognition Day appropriately echoes that sentiment with the words "you are not forgotten," Logan said.

"This reminds us that our nation's work is not done, that our commitment remains steadfast," he said. "It is our duty as Americans to remember our nation's heroes who have never failed to answer the call to defend their country or to secure freedom for oppressed people in other lands."

Retired sergeant major and VVA member Adna Chaffee said coming together every year on the third Friday of September to remember missing service members is a touchstone to our military's past.

"We need to remember where we came from," Chaffee said. "We can't forgot those who served before us, no matter what."