This past Friday, I attended a formal ceremony at Los Angeles Air Force Base to commemorate POW/MIA Recognition Day. The third Friday of every September, a day that’s not associated with any particular war, ensures that Americans remember to stand behind those who serve and to make sure everything is done to account for those who have never returned.
As I entered the base, I was greeted by Colonel Thomas R. Rock, Jr. who I am partnered with in the Honorary Commanders program. Colonel Rock explained to me that a 54-mile torch run had taken place across the South Bay over the past 24 hours. Individuals of the Coast Guard, Palos Verdes Estates Police Department and Port of Los Angeles Police joined members of the Space and Missile Systems in honor of POW/MIA Recognition Day by carrying the torch.
Lt. General John F. Thompson, Commander, Space and Missile Systems Center, Air Force Space Command welcomed those in attendance. Lt. General Thompson also introduced Luke Zamperini who spoke about his father’s World War II survival story.
Prior to the conclusion of the ceremony, a beautiful wreath was presented and the torch was placed on stage, in front of it.
Returning to the office, I felt compelled to educate myself about those missing in action and prisoners of war. Through research, I learned that 82,478 Americans who fought in wars are still missing today. The breakdown includes: 73,014 from World War II; 7,729 from the Korean War; 1,603 from Vietnam; 126 from the Cold War and six from conflicts since 1991.
According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, about 75 percent of those missing Americans are somewhere in the Asian-Pacific. More than 41,000 have been presumed lost at sea. Efforts to find those men and bring them home are constant.
“Every day we should pray and be hopeful for their return,” stated Lt. General Thompson.