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Missing but not forgotten

POW/MIAs remembered in ceremony

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POSTED: September 19, 2011 9:46 a.m.
Denise Etheridge/

Candles are lit to symbolize the unconquerable spirit of the prisoner of war during a remembrance ceremony Friday. Service members are classified as POW/MIAs when they have gone missing in action or may have died as prisoners of war, according to Chad Chaffee, chapter president and master of ceremonies.

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Civilians, active-duty soldiers and military retirees gathered Friday at the Vietnam Veterans of America Memorial on Fort Stewart to remember 35 Georgia service members who have yet to come home from war.

The Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 789 of Liberty County hosts the solemn ceremony each year on POW/MIA Recognition Day. The chapter’s effort is supported by the 3rd Infantry Division, according to Chad Chaffee, chapter president and master of ceremonies.

Chaffee, a retired Army sergeant major, said service members are classified as POW/MIAs when they have gone missing in action or may have died as prisoners of war.

Along with prayer and poetry from chapter members and guests, a table set for one with a vacant chair was prominently placed to symbolize the absence of the missing in action.

3rd ID Commander Maj. Gen. Robert "Abe" Abrams told the crowd that thousands of lost service members still have families waiting for their return.

The Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command reported 84,000 U.S. service members still are unaccounted for from the nation’s wars. Most of these, 74,184, are from World War II. The missing also includes 1,680 from the Vietnam War, 7,979 from the Korean War and 127 from the Cold War, according to an American Forces Press Service story.

Abrams also named two servicemen that went missing in action in the War on Terror.

Nearly five years ago, it is suspected that Army Spc. Ahmed Altaie was kidnapped while on his way to visit his family in Baghdad, Iraq, the general said.

Army Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl, a member of the 25th Infantry Division’s 4th Brigade Combat Team, was captured in Afghanistan’s Paktika province on June 30, 2009, the American Forces Press Service reported. Abrams said the Taliban later released video of Bergdahl.

"The families left behind are the true legacy of the missing," the general said, adding the military is obligated to bring these service members home.

"We cannot rest until everyone is found," Abrams said.

 

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