POW/MIA Recognition Day is commemorated on the third Friday of every September, a date that’s not associated with any particular war. In 1979, Congress and the president passed resolutions making it official after the families of the more than 2,500 Vietnam War POW/MIAs pushed for full accountability.
According to a Congressional Research Service report on POWs:
- 130,201 World War II service members were imprisoned; 14,072 them died
- 7,140 Korean War service members were imprisoned; 2,701 of them died
- 725 Vietnam War service members were imprisoned; 64 of them died
- 37 service members were imprisoned during conflicts since 1991, including both Gulf wars; none are still in captivity
According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, 83,114 Americans who fought in those wars are still missing, including:
- 73,515 from World War II (an approximate number due to limited or conflicting data)
- 7,841 from the Korean War
- 1,626 from Vietnam
- 126 from the Cold War
- 6 from conflicts since 1991
The DPAA said about 75 percent of those missing Americans are somewhere in the Asia-Pacific. More than 41,000 have been presumed lost at sea.
Efforts to find those men, identify them and bring them home are constant. For example, the DPAA said that in the past year it has accounted for 41 men missing during the Korean War: 10 had been previously buried as unknowns, 26 were from remains turned over by North Korea in the 1990s, one was from a recovery operation, and four were combinations of remains and recovery operations.
Missing Man Honors This table is set up in many military and veterans clubs to remember 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 or missing in a foreign land.
A pinch of salt symbolizes the tears of our missing and their families.
The lighted candle reflects our hope for their return.
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/chair is 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!