Soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, held as prisoners of war or still missing in action, were remember during a ceremony presented by the Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter 789 Friday evening at Fort Stewart’s Marne Garden.
With music by the 3rd Infantry Division Band, master-of-ceremony Sgt. Maj. (ret.) Adna R. Chaffee led the remembrance, which include a poem by VVA member Paul Spence and guest speaker, 3rd ID commander Maj. Gen. Mike Murray.
“Fort Stewart, as always, is honored to host this ceremony,” Murray said. “A very special welcome and thanks goes to the Vietnam Veterans of America. Your presence here today is an honor and provides furtherproof of your very honorable and sincere effort to raise awareness in this community for those throughout history who’ve endured the horror of having been prisoners of war and those who are still unaccounted for.”
He said in every American generation, its very best have answered the call to serve. He said Friday’s ceremony was a tribute to those especially who did not return from battle, whose fate is unknown. He said Americans stand beside the families of those missing in action, calling those families the true legacy of their service and sacrifice.
Murray said since 1990, the third Friday in September was been dedicated to remember the sacrifices of those who’ve been held as prisoners of war or counted as MIA. He added that they should also use the day to recognize those who made the ultimate sacrifice to this country.
“Today, although they’re not specifically recognized, is for those who made the ultimate sacrifice for this great nation,” he said. “There is a day dedicated to those who were enemy smitten, but I do not think we can ever say ‘thank you’ too many times to those who understood there are things more important in this world than self, that this nation and the ideals on which it were founded upon are worth defending.”
Following Murray, VVA members, one by one took, called out the names of Georgians who were POWs or still listed as MIA. With each name, Gabriele Chaffee sounded a bell, which echoed across the garden. After the last name, there was a moment of silence then a bugler played “Taps.” All rose and saluted to honor their memory.
One of the veterans at the ceremony was 90-year-old retired Army Sgt. Maj. Ernest Golden.Saying he retired in 1980 at age 56, Golden said he is still proud of his 30 years of service, which included the Korean war and two tours in Vietnam.
“Don’t give up,” Golden said was what he wanted to express to a new generation of soldiers. “I’m proud to have been an American soldier… You can’t do enough for (the families of KIAs, POWs and MIAs).”