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Hinesville to mark POW/MIA recognition day
Paul Spence, left, president of Hinesville's Vietnam Veterans of America, and Jimmy Waynick, VVA vice president, look on as Mayor Jim Thomas declares Sept. 19 National POW/MIA Recognition Day in Hinesville. - photo by Photo by Alena Parker.
Until all the combat soldiers classified as prisoners of war or missing in action are accounted for, Paul Spence, president of the local Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 789, and other area veterans will continue to make sure their memories are not forgotten.
"We feel an obligation to the Vietnam veterans to make sure that people remember and honor these people (POWs and MIAs)," Spence said. "These are still our troops that have fought in wars and, through no fault of their own, have not returned."
The VVA will join the rest of the country in acknowledging the third Friday in September as National POW/MIA Recognition Day. The day will include an official city government proclamation and a public ceremony.
Spence said he appreciates the community support in past ceremonies, but is looking to increase the significance of this year’s event.
"I think a lot of times it goes by and they don't even pay attention to it," Spence said. "It's not like Veterans Day and Memorial Day, so they just kind of let it slide by."
Jimmy Waynick, the group's vice-president, agreed people often unintentionally forget.
"We want to make sure these guys are remembered," Waynick said.
Hinesville Mayor Jim Thomas prefaced the Sept. 4 proclamation sign-
ing by mentioning his own military
service in a Ranger and Special Forces unit.   
"It's a special meaning to me because so many men of the units that I served with are still MIA today," Thomas said. "The memory of those men are very close to me."
He is a retired field artillery Army officer, who also served in three years in the Marine Corps.
"As a nation, we owe these men and their families a great debt of gratitude," Thomas said.
There are POW/MIAs dating back to the Revolutionary War, according to Spence.
"And though we'll probably never recover those individuals ... the families are what we do this for," he said.
The Joint Personnel Recovery Agency (JPRA) with the Department of Defense is working to recover POW/MIAs from World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.
VVA is the nation's only congressionally chartered Vietnam veterans organization. The 55,000-member national organization has 550 charters working toward group and individual empowerment through homeless shelters, substance abuse assistance, education projects and crime prevention campaigns based on the founding principle, "Never again will one generation of veterans abandon another."
The local public POW/MIA observance ceremony will be at 6:30 p.m. Sept. 19 at the Fort Stewart Museum. Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo, the 3rd ID commander, will be the guest speaker.
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