Local DAV to observe POW/MIA Recognition Day

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Not all soldiers are able to leave the country when their unit leaves.

Some, unfortunately, end up missing in action or are caught by the opposition and become prisoners of war.

On Sept. 14, Steven Saunders, commander of Chapter 51 of the Disabled American Veterans, will be volunteering to help people remember and mourn those prisoners of war and soldiers reported missing in action.

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"The price of freedom isn’t only those

who have died on the battlefield, but also those who have suffered," said Saunders, as he described some of the trials and tribulations that prisoners of war suffer: starvation, fear and not knowing if they will live another day.

"Every day brings another hardship and mental anguish, and the freedom isn't free. It doesn't come cheap. It comes with a very high price," he said.

Saunders will be holding a local gathering on the National POW/MIA Recognition Day, location still to be determined. The group is working with the city to see if it would be possible to use the vacant Century 21 space for the day.

The day is set aside each year to recognize and remember those who have been and still are missing. Saunders' main job for the remembrance day will be organizing the missing members ceremony.

The missing members ceremony consists of a table, symbolically set with six place settings that represent the five different branches of the military and one setting for civilians. There is also lemon and salt set on the table; lemon is symbolic of the missing family member's plight, and the salt is for the tears shed for the people still missing.

Saunders spoke of the persistent hope of families to find out any possible information about their loved ones.

"Every year they (families) hope maybe they'll find their loved one somewhere," he said. Saunders said until some bit of information is found, many lives are in a sort of "limbo."

"They (families) sit there and wonder if they're (missing relatives) ever going to be found," he said. "ŠThe bottom line is these families need closure, and that's what it's all about."

Saunders and his chapter hope that the remembrance day will educate the public on the POW's and MIA's statistics and situations. Saunders said the public is welcome to observe the ceremony.

For more information on the soldiers reported missing in action and prisoners of war, visit www.dtic.mil/dpmo/