On Friday, September 19, Americans across the country and abroad will observe National POW/MIA Recognition Day – a day dedicated to honoring and remembering soldiers who were prisoners of war (POW) and those who remain missing in action (MIA), as well as their families. This special day is observed annually on the third Friday in September.
According to the U.S. Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, over 83,000 Americans are still listed as MIA from WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, and the Gulf Wars, as well as other conflicts. Of those missing, 75% of the losses are located in the Asia-Pacific, and more than 41,000 are presumed lost. Thousands of American soldiers have been captured as prisoners of war.
These individuals and their families will be honored on September 19 with memorial ceremonies and remembrances organized by military installations, veteran organizations and local communities. These events seek to recognize and honor the sacrifices and contributions made by POWs and those who remain MIA, and their families. On POW/MIA Recognition Day, all military installations will be flying the National League of Families’ POW/MIA Flag, which represents the country’s commemoration of POWs and missing soldiers, whose brave actions will never be forgotten.
The History of National POW/MIA Recognition Day
POW/MIA Recognition Day was created by the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia. The organization was founded by families who were unsatisfied with the lack of information pertaining to the status of family members who were held captive in Southeast Asia or listed as MIA and unaccounted for.
The League’s initiative led Congress to pass a resolution authorizing National POW/MIA Recognition Day to be observed on July 18, 1979. Though the date of the commemoration varied, it became an annual event and was officiated as a national observance for the third Friday in September in 1986. Every year since, POWs and those listed as MIA have been honored on the third Friday of the month.
The official POW/MIA flag is flown at memorial events nationally and abroad. The flag was designed for the National League of Families by Newt Heisley. The flag is black and white and in a white circle bears the silhouette of a man and a watch tower with a guard on patrol. Underneath is a wreath with the moto “You Are Not Forgotten”. Congress officially recognized the flag on August 10, 1990, and declared it “a symbol of our Nation’s concern and commitment to resolving as fully as possible the fates of Americans still prisoner, missing and unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, thus ending the uncertainty for their families and the Nation”.
Honoring POWs and Missing Soldiers
You can celebrate National POW/MIA Recognition Day by attending a memorial event in your community. Communities nationwide will be holding special events to honor POWs and those who remain MIA. Along with attending an event, you can show your support by wearing POW/MIA military insignias and donating to an organization that works to locate missing soldiers and provides assistance to families of POWs and missing soldiers.