A somber mood over took the VFW Sunday morning as individuals sat and stood during the POW/MIA Remembrance Day ceremony, which lasted approximately an hour.
The National POW/MIA Recognition Day is observed on the third Friday of each September in the United States. This year the VFW Post 4353 hosted the event, which was sponsored by the Vietnam Veterans of America Fire Base #594 and Rolling Thunder Chapter 2.
Post Commander Paul Birdwell began the ceremony by expressing the importance of the ceremony and for the American people to remember the prisoners of war and those missing in action. He said since the ceremony is very important, he intends for it to become an annual event at the VFW.
A helmet was placed on a rifle during the VFW POW/MIA Remembrance Day ceremony Sunday.
During Birdwell's opening comments, he presented a POW/MIA flag to the Vietnam Veterans of America Fire Base #594 President Steve Nankervis and Rolling Thunder Chapter 2 President Dan Hurley to put at the center.
"One thing about Pine Island, you pass by the center and you do not see a POW flag flying," he said. 'It will be displayed at the center and we will have a ceremony up there and each one of you is invited."
Past Commander Larry Guy also spoke during the ceremony. He said the ceremony provided an opportunity to reflect upon extraordinary veterans.
"A time to remember and reaffirm the pledge to bring every service member home that did not come home," Guy said.
He went on to say that the National POW/MIA Recognition Day is to honor our nations heroes who knew hostility of war and anguish of imprisonment.
"Never forget our special comrades," Guy said. "America owes these men and women their gratitude."
He told those who gathered at the VFW that freedom is not free, that it comes with a price. Guy encouraged everyone to remember the prisoners of war and those missing in action for protecting our freedom when they lost theirs.
The ceremony also included a powerful and moving cage ceremony, which is a bamboo cage that the Vietnam prisoners were kept within. The prisoner was helped out of the cage by two men in uniform, which was followed by a flag draped over his shoulders. Once the prisoner was helped to his feet, he draped his arms around the two men in uniform as the three of them walked out of the VFW.
Tears streamed down individuals' faces as they watched the free prisoner walk past them.
A song was then played about being a prisoner of war that continued the somber mood.
A candle was lit for the POW/MIA table, which symbolizes many things and remembers those missing in action and prisoners of war. The table included a cloth, bread plate, lemon, salt, a rose in a vase with a ribbon, a glass and single chair.
A table with five plate settings was also set up near the stage at the VFW to represent each branch of the service. A hat, from each branch was placed in front of the plate setting for those missing.
Nankervis said the ceremony is heartbreaking, but it is important to remember the POW/MIA, which is why he does the ceremony each year.