Today, September 15th and every third Friday of September is POW/MIA Recognition Day, a day of remembrance and hope for the safe return of American Prisoners of War, and those still Missing In Action. The United States flag and POW/MIA flags are flown on this day and joint prayers are made for POWs and those that are Missing in Action. The focus is to ensure that America remembers its responsibility to stand behind those who serve our nation and do everything possible to account for those who do not return.
In 1979, Congress and President Jimmy Carter passed resolutions for the Remembrance Day after the families of the more than 2,500 Vietnam War POW/MIAs pushed for full accountability. During the first POW/MIA Recognition Day commemoration, a ceremony was held at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., while the 1st Tactical Squadron from Langley Air Force Base in Virginia flew the missing man formation. Most ceremonies since then have been held at the Pentagon, and many smaller observances occur across the nation and around the world on military installations.
The traditional POW/MIA flag was created before the Remembrance Day became official. The flag was created for the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia and officially recognized by the United States Congress in conjunction with the POW/MIA’s during the Vietnam War era.
In 1971, Mary Hoff wanted a flag made to remind people of POWs and the missing. She was one of the many waiting to see if her husband, Navy Lt. Cmdr. Michael Hoff, would ever return home after his plane had been shot down over Laos. World War II pilot Newt Heisley designed the POW/MIA flag, which was made in black and white to represent the sorrow, anxiety, and hope symbolized by the image of the gaunt man featured on it. The image of the man is a silhouette of his son, Jeffery Heisley, who was medically discharged from the military. When designing the flag, Newt looked at his son’s gaunt features and imagined what life must be like for those captured and missing in action on foreign land.
For every POW/MIA recognition day since 1982, the flag has flown just below the American flag at the White House – the only other flag to ever do so. In 1998, Congress ordered it to also be displayed on Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day, and Veterans Day.
Below are the numbers of POW/MIA that have yet been found:
Korean War: 7,729
Vietnam War: 1,602
Cold War: 126
Afghanistan and Iraq Wars: 6
As you continue your day, make a conscious effort to remember the brave men and women that have served our country, and as a result have become a part of the 83,000 servicemen missing in action, or taken captive as prisoners of war.
The Purple Heart Foundation is committed to honoring all of our heroes who have been willing to sacrifice everything for our country, and have seen the hardships of war. Nearly 90 percent of cash donations the Purple Heart Foundation receives provide funds for programs that help ALL veterans and their dependents. It is our goal to help make the transition from the battlefield to the home front a smooth one for all of our men and women in uniform who defend our freedom. Show your support for them by making a one-time or monthly pledge to make sure they continue to receive the support and benefits they deserve by clicking here.