CARIBOU, Maine — September 19 was National POW/MIA Recognition Day, and those who attended the ceremony at the Maine Veterans’ Memorial Cemetery in Caribou experienced a heartfelt observance to remember all those soldiers who were prisoners of war, as well as those who were and still are missing in action.
The emcee for the ceremony, Andy Olson, led the more than 50 people who came out to honor and promised to never forget those soldiers who had been imprisoned during times of war or those who remain unaccounted for.
POW/MIA Recognition Day is observed across the nation on the third Friday of September. The Caribou ceremony featured keynote speaker Sgt. Maj. Roger Felix, as well as music, prayers and a wreath-laying ceremony. Attendees included members of the Caribou Fire Department, the Legion Riders from Madawaska, Loring Job Corps and representatives of Maine’s congressional delegation. Members of veterans’ groups also attended.
During the ceremony, representatives for U.S. Sens. Angus King and Susan Collins, former Sen. Olympia Snowe and Rep. Mike Michaud delivered remarks from each.
“We join today to honor members of our armed forces who were held as prisoners of war or missing in action. We honor their courage, patriotism and immense sacrifices. I am proud to stand in solidarity with their families, friends and communities,” said King in his statement. “The words ‘leave no one behind’ embody a core principal of the United States military and a solemn vow made to all Americans who serve our country. America never forgets its heroes, and we always bring our people home. Today, we rededicate ourselves to that sense of purpose and sincere commitment.”
King continued to explain that across the world, the U.S. brings its fullest resources to recover the remains of those still missing from past conflicts.
“The valiant men and women — and their families — deserve nothing less for having borne war’s tragic costs. In pursuit of that goal, I strongly support the efforts of the United States to bring those still missing abroad back home. On this Prisoner of War and Missing in Action Day, I join all Americans in recognizing and thanking those who have sacrificed so much in support of our freedom,” he added.
Rep. Michaud pointed out that citizens across the nation are able to enjoy freedom because of the sacrifices of men and women in uniform. Such individuals “represent the best of our country. We are humbled by their actions on behalf of us all.”
Phil Bosse, representative for Sen. Collins, presented the Senator’s speech with a great deal of emotion and gratitude for all those veterans being remembered on that day.
“Today, here in Caribou and across our nation, Americans reaffirm a solemn vow we make to all who serve in uniform and defend our freedom — they will never be forgotten. We make this vow to those who serve and return home, to the fallen, and to the heroes who endured the hardship of enemy confinement or whose fate in time of war remains unknown even today,” said Collins. “We set aside National POW/MIA Recognition Day to honor those who fought for freedom and who experienced the worst of war. We honor the sacrifice of their families, who stand united for the loved ones who have yet to return and who speak with a powerful voice for those we cannot hear. We join them in an unending commitment to fully account for every patriot who has answered the call to defend our nation.”
Before the traditional wreath-laying ceremony performed by Sgt. Maj. Felix and Chairman of the Maine Veterans’ Memorial Cemetery Harry Hafford, Felix approached the podium as the keynote speaker, and gave a moving speech paying tribute to all those who have fought for our nation, and strongly urged all those in attendance to “never forget.”
“I want to thank everyone here who has taken time out of their busy day to share a moment to remember those who cannot be here with us. Today, as we do every year on the third Friday of September, we take a moment to remember our POWs and MIAs,” said Felix. “Our military never wants to leave anyone behind, and many have died in attempts to ensure everyone comes home. Every conflict, battle or strife has seen warriors held against their will.”
He added, “We are not Americant’s, we are Americans. We are strongest when placed in difficult situations. POW/ MIA Recognition Day gives us the opportunity to remember that as of 2009, over 1,700 personnel just from the Vietnam War alone, are still missing. It took immense pressure in 1979, when veterans and their families passed a resolution that would establish POW/MIA Recognition Day each and every year. As Americans we continue to ensure that we push until everyone comes home.”
Before the ceremony concluded, Felix and Hafford conducted the traditional wreath laying at the MIA remembrance monument. Felix and his fellow veterans then stood at attention, while all others in the crowd placed their hands on their hearts, as the Legion Riders began the 21-Gun Salute and NMVCC member Fred Ormezzani performed “Taps” on his trumpet.