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Missing soldiers to be honored at program

Videos to describe searches, successes

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The POW-MIA flag must be flown on the third Friday in September as well as Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day and Veterans Day.

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Years — sometimes decades — have passed since some American servicemen were lost in battle and failed to come home, yet there are those who have refused to give up looking for them.

Two organizations that continue the search for prisoners of war and those missing in action will be featured at a Friday presentation by the American Legion Toledo Post 335. In honor of the National POW/MIA Recognition Day, the post will offer video documentaries that share the stories and successes of the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, or JPAC, and the privately funded search group BentProp Team.

Both organizations continue to search for remains of American soldiers who are unaccounted for.

“More than 83,000 Americans remain unaccounted for from World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Gulf War,” said Ernie Mease, a World War II Navy veteran and past commander of the Toledo post who spearheaded the presentation. “We have a duty to honor their services every bit as much as we honor those who most recently served and have returned home or are still serving overseas.”

National POW/MIA Recognition Day was begun in 1979 to honor the country’s prisoners of war and those who are still missing in action.

According to the Department of Defense Prisoner of War and Missing Personnel Office, National POW/MIA Recognition Day is a time for the nation to remember “those Americans who have sacrificed so much for their country.”

Always the third Friday in September, the recognition is one of six days throughout the year that Congress has mandated the flying of the POW/MIA flag. The others are Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day, and Veterans Day.

Mr. Mease said the presentation is a part of the American Legion post’s events held every Friday. He said this particular event was created to remind people locally that there are still Americans who have not made it home from war.

He said he hopes the general public will participate.

“Both of these organizations are doing a lot, but you don’t hear much about them in this area,” he said of JPAC and BentProp. “We never leave our servicemen behind. We’re one of the few countries that feel a strong responsibility to that. We bring them home if possible. I’m a firm believer of that.”

Lee Armstrong, retired from the Navy and executive director of the Lucas County Veterans Service Commission, will introduce the program.

Mr. Armstrong said these organizations work to find remains in the jungles of Vietnam and on Pacific Ocean islands. With modern technology, he said, even the smallest amount of a person’s remains can be identified and returned home for proper burial.

“I think that we as a nation, and current events can attest to this, we need to pay tribute to those who serve our country,” he said. On the other side of the coin, he said, "we can’t forget those who didn’t come back. We can’t lose focus on that.”

The event will follow an 11:30 a.m. luncheon in the Belvedere Room at the Toledo Club, 235 14th St. Cost will be $14, payable at the door.

Contact Erica Blake at:

eblake@theblade.com

or 419-213-2134.

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