FORT RUCKER, Ala. (September 22, 2011) -- Fort Rucker joined with members of the surrounding communities to pay tribute to those missing in action and prisoners of war during a ceremony at the U.S. Army Aviation Museum Sept. 16.

The ceremony marked the celebration of National POW/MIA Recognition Day. It was a somber event for the attendees, but also a time to be thankful for those who finally came home, according to event guest speaker, Col. Rick Crogan, commander of the Aviation Center Logistics Command.

"America's POWs, servicemen and women, have gone far beyond commitment and personal honor," he said. "They have given their last full measure to the freedom of our country. They have given up their freedom so that we may enjoy ours. Some have laid down their lives for that freedom."

Crogan knows firsthand what the loss of a loved one in a time of war can do to a Family. His uncle went missing in 1961, during the Cold War.

"I have personally witnessed the pain my mother went through many years later and still today, when her brother's fighter aircraft went missing in 1961, a casualty of the Cold War," he said. "As we all know, uncertainty is an inescapable part of military service. The turbulence usually associated with military life puts enormous strains on servicemembers and their Families."

Many different veterans groups attended the ceremony, including members of the Wiregrass Veterans Alliance. President Ed Pritchard said the event was a great way to honor those who never came home and to make sure they stay in the memories of those currently serving in the military.

"We need to have all our missing in action back in the arms of their relatives," he said. "We need to give the proper memorial service to those who can't come home, as well."

Pritchard retired from Fort Rucker in 1976 as a sergeant first class. He said no one he's known personally had ever gone missing, but he has seen firsthand the effects losing a loved one and not knowing what happened can have on a Family.

"It has a devastating effect on Families," he said. "Even though you might go on with your life, you carry that in your heart. It stays with the spouses and the children who are left behind. It's vital that we always keep their memories alive."