For someone who never served in the military, I recognize holidays such as Memorial Day and Veterans Day and pay tribute to those that did and still serve in the Armed Forces. As the son of a retired military father and as a citizen of the United States, I am thankful for those who serve. But on the third Friday of September of each year, I especially remember those who served, who never returned from battle. Those lost not to immediate death, but those lost in the chaos of battle, those captured by the enemy, those missing in action, those never recovered, nor rescued. I am unsure why I feel this connection to those Prisoners of War and Missing In Action, only to say that I am with them and I think of them often. And as a country, we should never forget any war that still rages on for their families or for those that are still missing.
Proclamation — National POW/MIA Recognition Day, 2016
NATIONAL POW/MIA RECOGNITION DAY, 2016
BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
For centuries, courageous members of our Armed Forces have embodied the best of America with devotion and patriotism. On National POW/MIA Recognition Day, we pause to remember our servicemen and women who never returned home. The hardship experienced by prisoners of war and by the family members of those who have gone missing in action is unimaginable to most Americans; it is our country’s solemn obligation to bring these heroes back to the land they served to defend, and to support the families who, each day, carry on without knowing the peace of being reunited with their loved ones.
The United States does not leave anyone behind, and we do not forget those who remain missing. We will never stop working to bring home those who gave everything for their country, nor cease in our pursuit of the fullest possible accounting for all who are missing. We are working to fulfill this promise by strengthening communication with the families of those service members missing or taken prisoner. And as Commander in Chief, I am committed to living up to this responsibility.
The men and women of our Armed Forces face unthinkable conditions and bear the painful cost of war. Theirs is a debt we can never fully repay, though we will continue striving to remain worthy of their sacrifice. In honor of those who have not yet come home, and the families who struggle with the fear of unknown fate, we renew our fierce commitment to our patriots in uniform and pledge to do everything we can to bring those missing or held prisoner home.
On September 16, 2016, the stark black and white banner symbolizing America’s Missing in Action and Prisoners of War will be flown over the White House; the United States Capitol; the Departments of State, Defense, and Veterans Affairs; the Selective Service System Headquarters; the World War II Memorial; the Korean War Veterans Memorial; the Vietnam Veterans Memorial; United States post offices; national cemeteries; and other locations across our country. We raise this flag as a solemn reminder of our obligation to always remember the sacrifices made to defend our Nation.
NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim September 16, 2016, as National POW/MIA Recognition Day. I urge all Americans to observe this day of honor and remembrance with appropriate ceremonies and activities.
IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this fifteenth day of September, in the year of our Lord two thousand sixteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and forty-first.
Today at many military installations and support organizations during the in-dining experience and at special ceremonies; the Missing Man Table and Honors Ceremony will be taking place. Those of us not in the military will have our lunch or dinner with family or friends as usual. On this National POW/MIA Recognition Day, I have posted the ceremony script in one version, so that you might get a “taste” of what families and friends of Prisoners of War/Missing In Action personnel are doing today to honor the missing.
As you entered the room, you may have noticed a special table; it is reserved to honor our missing men.
Set for six, the empty chairs represent Americans who were or are missing from each of the services – Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, and Coast Guard – and civilians, all with us in spirit.
Some here were very young, or not yet born, when the Vietnam War began; however, all Americans should never forget the brave men and women who answered our nation’s call and served the cause of freedom in a special way.
Let me explain the meaning of this table, and then join me for a moment of silent prayer. The table is round – to show our everlasting concern.
The cloth is white – symbolizing the purity of their motives when answering the call to serve.
The single red rose reminds us of the lives of these Americans…and their loved ones and friends who keep the faith, while seeking answers.
The yellow ribbon symbolizes our continued uncertainty, hope for their return and determination to account for them.
A slice of lemon reminds us of their bitter fate, captured and missing in a foreign land.
A pinch of salt symbolizes the tears of our missing and their families – who long for answers after decades of uncertainty.
The lighted candle reflects our hope for their return – alive or dead.
The Bible represents the strength gained through faith to sustain us and those lost from our country, founded as one nation under God.
The glass is inverted – to symbolize their inability to share a toast.
The chairs are empty – they are missing…………….. (moment of silence)
Let us now raise our water glasses in a toast to honor America’s POW/MIAs, to the success of our efforts to account for them, and to the safety of all now serving our nation!