Since 1998, the third Friday in each September is observed as National POW/MIA Recognition Day. It passes quietly year after year with many citizens unaware of its existence.
Some remember, though. This year in Washington, D.C., a group composed primarily of Vietnam War veterans gathered at the foot of the Lincoln Memorial to recall their comrades, known and unknown, who never returned from faraway shores. Several speakers reminded the small crowd of the importance of not only remembrance, but activism in the POW/MIA cause. Among those speaking was John Stovall, director of The American Legion's National Security/Foreign Relations Division.
"For years, The American Legion supported a National POW/MIA Recognition Day, which is now recognized annually," Stovall said. "This commemoration is set aside to honor the commitment and sacrifices made by this nation's prisoners of war and those who are still missing in action, as well as their families. As we gather this morning to remember and recognize, I can assure you that The American Legion is committed to achieving a full accounting of all POW/MIAs. This means returning living POWs, the repatriation of their remains, or finding convincing evidence why neither of these is possible."
But, Stovall said, "Much work remains. The American Legion supports the continued declassification of all POW/MIA information, the strengthening of joint commissions with Russia, North Korea and China, and adequate resourcing of investigative efforts and field operations to resolve POW/MIA issues. The American Legion has also worked continuously with both Congress and DoD to improve the policies and programs for the accountability of missing persons. This includes urging the president and Congress to fully fund the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Office for its current and future mission of ensuring the accountability of U.S. servicemembers. The American Legion will continue to speak out and exert maximum pressure on both the administration and on Congress to fully account for America's POW/MIAs."
In the audience was John Sommer, retired executive director of the Legion's Washington office. A Vietnam war combat medic, Sommer not only supports the cause, but was and is a vociferous leader in the Legion's POW/MIA accountability campaign.