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This morning, I attended the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command's (JPAC) National POW/MIA Recognition Day Ceremony. JPAC's mission is to "achieve the fullest possible accounting of all Americans missing as a result of our nation's previous conflicts."  It employs more than 400 military and civilian personnel and, just last year conducted 75 recovery and investigation teams deployed to 18 countries searching for America's heroes.  Since it's inception in 2003, JPAC has identified more than 750 Americans.  They truly do some good work.

Every year since 1986, the President of the United States issues a proclamation commemorating the third Friday of September as National POW/MIA Recognition Day to honor and recognize the sacrifices of those Americans who have been prisoners of war and to remind the Nation of those who are still missing in action.  It is one of six days throughout the year that Congress has mandated that the POW/MIA flag fly at all military installations, national cemeteries, post offices, VA medical facilities, the war memorials in Washington, and the official offices of the secretaries of State, Defense, and Veterans Affairs, as well as the director of the selective service system and the White House.

At today's ceremony, the armed forces were represented by members of the Army, Marines, Air Force, and Navy.  The Commander of Detachment One, JPAC, an Air Force Lieutenant Colonel, provided some welcome remarks before the Thai National Anthem and US National Anthem were played.  Then, the Ambassador Kenney gave the keynote address.  She specifically welcomed the day's honorees.  One was a retired colonel from the Royal Thai Army Special Forces who was a POW from 1965 to 1974.  This man was captured with an American civilian pilot in Laos and spent time in the infamous Hanoi Hilton.  There, he stole materials for American POWs to communicate and smuggled his own food to other POWs that were in worse shape than he was.  Many American POWs credit this man for saving their lives and asked about him when they were released.  He is the recipient of the Silver Star and Legion of Merit medals and is the only foreign national to have his picture hanging in the "Hall of Heroes" at the Pentagon.

Photo courtesy of US Embassy Bangkok Facebook Page

The second honoree was a retired Major with the US Army Special Forces.  He was a POW from 1972 to 1973 in a jungle prison in Cambodia after he was wounded by over 30 pieces of shrapnel and six bullets in Loc Ninh District, Vietnam.

Finally, the third honoree was a Thai civilian who was a POW from 1963 to 1967.  This gentleman assisted 3 American POWs, 1 other Thai POW, and a Chinese POW escape from prison when they grabbed a guard's machine gun and engaged in a shootout.  He was eventually captured again and imprisoned with Lao POWs.  3 Prisoners from his original prison break are still unaccounted for.  This story inspired the film Rescue Dawn.

Photo courtesy of US Embassy Bangkok Facebook Page
The Royal Thai Air Force then played Taps before the ceremony ended.  It was a touching moment for an American expat that gave a sense of community.  The efforts of the JPAC were also highlighted with photos of missions to answer questions for thousands of families who don't know what happened to their loved ones.  They really do good work, and it's refreshing to be reminded that the US is still searching for those missing in action.  I'm glad I was able to watch the ceremony.

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