In remembrance: POW-MIA Day observed

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 17, 2004

People say a picture is worth a thousand words, but the photographs on display at the Ironton City Center Tuesday had the power to leave observers speechless.

The photographs depicted the emaciated bodies of American soldiers who have been held as prisoners of war throughout the years and the conditions under which they survived in spite of deprivation and torture.

The Disabled American Veterans Chapter 51 hosted the local observance of National Prisoners of War-Missing in Action Remembrance Day. The day is set aside annually to honor those who were taken prisoners in foreign wars, and to honor those who never were accounted for after the wars ended. Some 10,000 soldiers still listed as missing in action from the Korean and Vietnam conflicts alone.

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"These people cannot be forgotten," DAV commander Stephen Saunders said. "Those who survived paid a horrible price for freedom. … This is the cost of freedom even though many of those who were liberated were scarred for life."

One photograph showed a French rail car made to carry 40 people, but often crammed with 90 American servicemen who were captured by Nazis in World War II.

"And as soon as they found out American servicemen were Jewish, off they went to concentration camps," Saunders said. Another photo showed the infamous Hanoi Hilton, where numbers of U.S. soldiers were tortured during the Vietnam conflict.

Also on display was the Missing Man table;

the six empty place settings represent the branches of the military: Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard - and civilians. Various items on the table represented the plight of the families who wait for word of their loved ones and the sacrifices those soldiers made in service to their country.

What would Saunders hope that observers would learn from the annual display?

"Never forget," he answered. "We tend to go on with our lives but there are families out there who can't go on with theirs."