GRAFTON—Each year, typically the third Friday in September is designated to honor and remember those who were prisoners of war and those who were and are currently still missing from battle.
National Prisoner of War/Missing in Action (POW/MIA) Recognition Day was instituted in 1979, when Congress and the president passed resolutions denoting the day as a day of remembrance, after more than 2,500 Vietnam War POW/MIA families pushed for accountability.
According to www.military.com, POW/MIA Remembrance Day centers on ensuring that Americans remember to stand behind those who serve, and to make sure those who have never returned are accounted for.
During the first observance, a ceremony was held at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. The 1st Tactical Squadron from Langley Airforce Base, located in Virginia, honored all POW/MIAs by flying in the missing man formation.
Since it’s inception, smaller observances have been held across the nation, as well as on military installations around the world.
This year, the Veterans of Foreign Wars Memorial City Post and Auxiliary will host a POW/MIA Recognition Service on Friday, September 15, at the post home, located at 225 West Main Street, Grafton. The event is scheduled to begin at 7:00 p.m.
According to Auxiliary Vice President Brenda Thompson, following the service there will be a reception, honoring Tommy Mathews, the only former POW in Taylor County.
Mathews, a graduate from Grafton High School, wanted to enlist in the Army following graduation, but his parents refused to sign his papers. So instead, he worked until he was drafted into the Army in 1943.
He served in the Army’s 45th Infantry Division for nearly two years. During that time, he spent eight months as a prisoner of war in France and Germany.
Mathews was released in the spring of 1945, following the Battle of the Bulge. While traveling through the woods, he and other prisoners heard the American voices of the 1st Armored Division.
“We really want to encourage the public to attend this very important service and reception,” shared Thompson. “It is important to honor and remember those who have served and sacrificed for the freedoms we all enjoy today.”