Eglin observes POW/MIA Recognition Day

  • Published
  • By Kevin Gaddie
  • Team Eglin Public Affairs

EGLIN AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- A POW/MIA Remembrance Run/Walk was held here Sept. 14-15.

The two-day event happened in conjunction with National POW/MIA Recognition Day, an annual observance for Americans to remember prisoners of war, those missing in action, and their families.

More than 250 base volunteers helped carry the POW/MIA flag through a eight-tenths mile long course, for 24 hours.  A runner or group of runners handed off the flag to another runner or group, every hour during the time period.

Before the runners began, Dale Marks, 96th Test Wing Deputy Director, gave opening remarks.

“We gather together today to recognize our nation’s former prisoners of war and those still missing, and to recommit ourselves to fulfilling our solemn pledge: to make every effort to bring all our servicemembers home to their families,” he said.

Marks said more than 83,000 Americans remain missing from World War Two, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, the Gulf Wars, and other conflicts.  Out of the missing, 75 percent of the losses were in the Asia-Pacific Region, and more than 41,000 of the missing were presumed lost at sea.

“I encourage each of you to remember the sacrifices these servicemembers made for our freedoms and reiterate the phrase 'you are not forgotten!’'” he said.

Next, Eglin Honor Guard members circled a round table with five place settings, adorned with a single red rose.  They placed dress uniform covers from each service branch at each place setting and raised empty water glasses in silent tribute.

The runners then began carrying the flag for the next 24 hours.

The next day, Senior Airman Daisy Gabbard, 96th Communications Squadron, spoke about her great-grandfather, Pvt. Edgar Hunter, an infantryman in the Army’s 142nd Regiment, 36th Infantry Division.  Hunter and other fellow soldiers were taken prisoner by the German government during a World War II allied invasion of Salerno, Italy in September 1943.   He was held for 19 months before being freed in September 1945.

“Being a POW with its starvation, death marches, torture, and killings was a harsh and brutal experience,” Gabbard recited from Hunter’s journaled account of his experience as a POW.

Gabbard said one entry was especially poignant for her.

“A passage towards the end of his journal reads how freedom doesn’t come cheap,” she said. “I think this passage sums up the message that he wanted to get across. He mentioned many times in his book that despite everything he went through and how bad he was physically and emotionally damaged, if he could go back in time, he’d still do it again. This passage really drives that message home and shows just how selfless he was.”

Gabbard concluded her speech with a final quote from her great-grandfather.

“It was a high price, but it’s been paid,” she said.  “Enjoy.  The POWs and MIAs, want you to.”