Friday, flags should fly at half mast, but many won't. Schools should mention the significance of the day and those it commemorates, but most won't. Americans across the country should give thanks for a group of brave soldiers on a remembrance day most don't even know about.
Sept. 19 is POW/MIA Recognition Day. Itwas createdto honor prisoners of war who were classified as missing in action from all American military conflicts. Prisoners of war and soldiers missing in action are brave heroes who made incredible sacrifices for their country. The president will make a speech and military installations will hold ceremonies, but many Americans won't even observe the holiday. That should change.
The movement to raise awareness of POW/MIAs began on a national stage after the Vietnam War. Many Americans believed --and still do --that the Vietnamese government didn't release all of its prisoners in the deal negotiated with the US after the war. Several former POWs have testified before Congress that they believe there were still American soldiers in prison camps in Southeast Asia.
American pop culture even took notice of the movement with movies like "Rambo 2" and the "Missing in Action" series, which depicted American war heroes returning to Vietnam to rescue their captured comrades. But in real life, there was no rescue mission.
Despite its correlation to the Vietnam War, POW/MIA Remembrance Day extends far beyond this conflict. It honors American POWs listed as missing in action from the Revolutionary War up to the Operation Iraqi Freedom.
These brave men and women made the ultimate sacrifice for their country, giving up their normal lives for the benefit of Americans at home. They performed admirably in horrid conditions and will forever remain some of America's greatest heroes.
Americans should take time to think about how many POWs gave their lives for their country. In the Pacific Theatre of World War II alone, an estimated 12,500 U.S. soldiers died in captivity.
American POWs should serve as models of sacrifice. Since Vietnam, the US has had an entirely volunteer army. Even when a draft was enacted, most American soldiers were volunteers, including about 75 percent in Vietnam. The vast majority of soldiers captured didn't have to be there at all. They selflessly volunteered to fight for their country.
Americans should learn from them and take a lesson in selflessness and dedication to our country on this solemn day.
Aside from these sacrifices, POW/MIAs have been incredible examples of the human will. Many stayed alive through the duration of the war they fought in and lived to be rescued. We should also give thanks to those who made it back alive.
Take some time out to remember America's unsung heroes, and thank them for the freedoms U.S. citizens enjoy.