Candles burned Friday in memory of the 83,000 Americans still missing in action.
One by one, those standing vigil for the nation’s MIA/POWs approached a small display outside the VFW hall on Cleveland Avenue, adding names of missing soldiers until it formed a wall of heart-wrenching bricks.
Veterans laid an evergreen wreath at the base of a pole bearing the POW/MIA flag and stood in solemn silence listening to the silver peal of Taps.
“There are still too many families that worry about the fate of their loved ones,” said Amherst VFW Post 1662 commander John Pena.
The third Friday in September is a special time to remember comrades still missing or held captive, he said in a short ceremony.
Of those assumed dead but still unaccounted for, 73,500 fought in World War II and and estimated 9,650 in later conflicts. Many are consigned to cemeteries overseas, including mass graves in the countries in which they were killed, or in the watery depths of the oceans.
It’s been more than 150 years since the end of the Civil War, more than 70 since the end of World War II, more than 40 years since the end of the Vietnam War, and troops have been in the Middle East more than a quarter-century.
But it’s never too late to call for a full accounting for those brothers and sisters in arms by the government, Pena told a small crowd of devoted veterans and their family members.
The U.S. Department of Defense Prisoner of War Missing Personnel Office attempts to find lost servicemen and women. It is able to account for about 70 a year.
The Government Accountability Office anticipates as few as 25,000 of these MIA/POWs will ever be “found,” according to a 2013 report.
National POW/MIA Recognition Day was established by Congress in 1979. It is marked by ceremonies at war memorials, museums, and veterans organizations across the U.S.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.