A small group of veterans came out Friday evening to Bryant Commons to remember the soldiers who never returned from America’s conflicts.
As part of the annual POW-MIA remembrance ceremony, they listened as each soldier’s name who never returned home to Georgia from America’s wars was read aloud and a bell was rung for each one.
According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, more than 83,000 U.S. service members from World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, the Gulf War, the wars on terror and other conflicts remain missing.
“This evening’s event is to honor all POWs and MIAs from all eras, all wars, all conflicts. It’s not just about the Vietnam veterans,” said Dennis Fitzgerald, president of the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 789. “We’re never going to give up the fight to get them all accounted for and returned home to their loved ones.”
Maj. Alexander Boroff, the operations officer for the 3rd Infantry Division’s 2/69 Armor Battalion, pointed out his father was a Vietnam veteran and thanked the veterans in attendance for their service.
“Today we gather here as part of our sacred obligation to pay tribute to the thousands of men and women who sacrificed so much for our nation, whether they were held captive and returned home or those who yet remain unaccounted for,” he said.
During the ceremony, John Howton unfurled a flag put together by his father, John Howton Sr. The elder Howton, who passed away in 1978, made the flag from parachutes that carried supplies to Americans held as POWs in Japan in the late stages of the war. The elder Howton was captured on Corregidor.
The POWs also used the parachutes to mark their camps so American bombers would not bomb them.
“He took some of the parachute material and made an American flag, much to the delight of his fellow prisoners,” said his son, now a resident of St. Simons Island. “They showed that flag as they were liberated. He persevered through a horrible time, along with his fellow soldiers.”
Fitzgerald said there are 26 Georgians still listed as missing and perhaps another 100 unaccounted for.
“It’s an emptiness and a lost feeling we don’t anybody to feel,” he said of families not knowing the fate of their missing soldiers. “We’re trained never to leave a soldier behind. We want to get everybody and bring them home and bring them where they deserve to be, with their family and loved ones.”