Honoring National POW/MIA Recognition Day
Today, on National POW/MIA Recognition Day, Americans across the country come together to remember and honor those prisoners of war, missing in action, and their families. According to The National League of POW/MIA Families, as of September 18, 2014, the Department of Defense (DoD) has still listed 1,641 personnel who remain unaccounted for from the Vietnam War.
During the Vietnam era, thousands chose to wear the POW/MIA bracelets as a way to “remember American prisoners of war suffering in captivity in Southeast Asia.” Some still wear the bracelets and remember those soldiers’ lives today, holding hope that one day these young men will return home.
At a Wall That Heals stop in Neillsville, Wisconsin, a man name Steve Mabie introduced himself to VVMF’s Director of Outreach, Tim Tetz. What started as casual conversation led to a remarkable discovery. Steve had been carrying around a POW/MIA bracelet for a young man named Merlin Allen, who had been missing for over thirty years. After searching for Allen’s name on the traveling wall, it became known that the man who bore a name on Steve’s wrist had been accounted for in 2013. After much consideration and deliberation, Steve felt it was time to take it “home,” to The Wall in Washington, D.C.
Steve’s wife, Maryjane, offered these moving words to VVMF,
“It became such a part of our lives after wearing it for 34 years that you want to be sure you do the right thing with it. We feel so fortunate that Merlin was found and returned to his family and we plan to send them pictures of the bracelet placement so they know that it is ‘home’.”
Following The Wall That Heals stop in his hometown, Steve made a trip to The Wall where he finally laid to rest the bracelet, feeling it right to leave it where Allen’s name was etched in black granite. Steve hopes to contact the family of Allen, in a way to make peace and to offer some closure.
And while there are thousands of families and loved ones across the globe that are overwhelmed by the long-enduring pain of not knowing if these unaccounted veterans will return home, some do find closure. In 2014, VVMF honored the eight Vietnam veterans were recently accounted for, and the statuses next to their names on The Wall were changed to indicate this. You can learn about these veterans here.
However, for the many who may not have a personal connection to those who are still unaccounted for in our nation’s wars, there is still a lot you can do at home. A Vietnam veteran in Florida, Frank D’Amato, has been working adamantly to ensure The POW/MIA flag is flown across his community and at more than thirty local police and fire stations. Frank wants to make sure people across the country will never forget.
Will you be flying your POW/MIA flag to raise awareness?
Note: The Wall That Heals traveling replica and museum will remain in Bedford, VA through September 19-21. On Saturday, September 20, the hosts will hold a POW/MIA Event. For more information, please call 540-586-3329 or visit www.dday.org.