POW/MIA Recognition Day: ‘You Are Not Forgotten’

The third Friday in September is recognized as POW/MIA Recognition Day, a time to remember the sacrifices of prisoners of war (POW) and service members who are missing in action (MIA).

The familiar POW/MIA flag, so closely associated with the observance, actually pre-dates it. In 1971 a military spouse named Mary Hoff contacted a private company to request a flag to honor those missing in action or prisoners of war (one of whom was her husband). A World War II pilot named Newt Heisley created the now-iconic design.

The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) official site says more than 83,000 service members are missing from conflicts from World War II to the present time — more than 73,000 from World War II; 7,000+ from the Korean War; 1,600+ from the Vietnam War; 126 service members from the Cold War era; and six from conflicts since 1991. Thirty Oklahomans remain unaccounted for.

Of the more than 83,000 service members listed as POW/MIAs, approximately half are “presumed lost at sea” according to DPAA. Roughly 75% of the entire number of POW/MIAs are thought to be in the Asia/Pacific theater of operations. Repatriation efforts-cooperative projects with other nations to bring POW/MIAs back home are ongoing. Efforts in Vietnam and Korea are ongoing, and there are still identifications being made on remains from World War II. The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency is tasked with making continuous efforts to account for the some 83,000 service members who still have not come home from conflicts around the globe. POW/MIA Day is but one moment in that ongoing effort, but it’s an important one.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Operation Homecoming, the long hoped-for return of 591 American prisoners of war held by North Vietnam, some enduring harsh captivity for as long as 9 years. Among those POWs returning in 1973 were Oklahoma Military Hall of Fame inductees Capt. Phil Butler (2,855 days), Lt. Col. Robbie Risner (2,707 days), Cdr. Danny Glenn (2,266 days), Lt. Col. Galand Kramer (2,217 days), Lt. Col. Bill Schwertfeger (407 days), and Col. Bill Talley (322 days).

Galand Kramer is a lifelong friend and former classmate of McAfee & Taft’s own Frank Hill, and who is the subject of an upcoming documentary about his life, including his harrowing experience of more than six years of brutal captivity in the infamous “Hanoi Hilton,” in honor of the 50th anniversary of his release and return home with honor.