Last weekend more than 200 people arrived at the Pine Island VFW Post 4353 to celebrate the second annual Recognition Day Ceremony.
National POW/MIA Recognition Day is observed across the nation on the third Friday of September each year. Many Americans take the time to remember those who were prisoners of war (POW's) and those who are missing in action (MIA's), as well as their families. According to the Department of Defense there are still 1,644 Americans still "unaccounted for" in Southeast Asia.
All military installations fly the POW/MIA flag, which symbolizes the nation's remembrance of those who were imprisoned while serving in conflicts and those who remain missing.
Steve Nankervis, President of Vietnam Veterans of America, Firebase #549.
The sponsors of this event were the Vietnam Veterans of America, Fire Base #594 and Rolling Thunder Chapter 2.
Dan Hurley, President of Rolling Thunder, Inc., said, "I got involved with the Vietnam Veterans of America Fire Base #594 in 1994 and Rolling Thunder in 2006. Most people think Rolling Thunder is a motorcycle club. What it's really about is publicizing the POW/MIA issue - to educate people about those American Prisoners of War that were left behind."
Hurley served in the United States Marine Corp from 1961 1967 and served in Vietnam from 1961 to 1963 as an "advisor." "Back then we were considered "advisors," Hurley said. "I worked mostly from aboard ship doing wet landings as part of the advance team. I carried one of those radios. We recorded what happened on those landings."
"Our mission at Rolling Thunder is to remind the public about those still missing, not just from Vietnam but from all wars," Hurley said. "We still get information about missing servicemen from World War II, Korea and Vietnam. They have something like 1700 sets of remains from World War II, Korea and Vietnam in Honolulu that haven't been identified. Once they identify remains they go to the records, to the outfit, and determine the time, date and place and research what happened to that service member."
The event started precisely at 1:00 pm. Steven Nankervis, President of Vietnam Veterans of America, Fire Base #594 emceed the event. After welcoming everyone he introduced the Commander of VFW Post 4353 Keith Keefer who also welcomed everyone to the VFW.
The Pledge of Allegiance and the national anthem were next on the agenda. Afterwards Nankervis opened the event with the "Prisoner of War Pledge of Allegiance."?
Nenkervis asked the audience to recite the first lines of the Pledge:??(Audience) "I pledge allegiance to the flag." (Nankervis) "I am an American. I was a Prisoner Of War. I have served my country. I need no one to tell me what allegiance I owe to my flag, to my country, to my home."
(Audience) "of the United States of America." (Nankervis) "This is my country. I have fought for it. I have been imprisoned for it and died for it."
(Audience) "And to the Republic for which it stands." (Nankervis) "This flag stands for me, for love of my country. My love for my family and love for my friends. I did not forsake it when I was starved, when I was beaten, when I was killed."
(Audience) "One Nation Under God, Indivisible." (Nankervis) "I am one man, I have one country, America. I worship one God. Under God I was captured, under God I was saved, under God I have no fear."
(Audience) "With Liberty and Justice for All." (Nankervis) "My allegiance is to Liberty and Justice. My flag represents the best of myself, my effort, my home, my country. I will pledge allegiance to the flag. I will pledge under the love of God. It is my right, my privilege, my duty. I have earned it. Tell me not how I have given you much. I am a Prisoner Of War. Take nothing more from me."
(Nankervis) "I Pledge Allegiance to the Flag of My Country."
One by one an honor guard member representing each branch of the service was called to the table. The first was the Army Honor Guard. The Honor Guard soldier approached the table solemnly where he ceremoniously turned a glass upside down, rotated the military branch cover (hat) 180 degrees, moved the chair forward and saluted the missing service member. One by one Navy, Marine Corp, Air Force and Coast Guard followed.
Next to the Missing Man Table there was a small bamboo cage. This bamboo cage represented every American POW captured and held by the enemy. The cage would be used in the "Cage Ceremony." In what was the most moving ceremony of the day a POW was rescued from captivity.
"Rescue team front and center," Nankervis shouted. Three men dressed in fatigues entered the room... one served as an armed lookout while two men retrieved the POW from the cage and helped him to freedom.
In closing Nankervis said, "Thank you all for coming today. May God bless America and her people. God bless our troops, both at home and abroad. God bless our POW's and MIA's and those who wait."
Steve Nankervis, President of the Vietnam Veterans of America Fire Base #595 served in the Marine Corp in Vietnam in 1969, 70 and 71.
"I am the POW/MIA advocate for Lee County," Nankervis said. "The reason I do this is I don't want these men to be forgotten. You know in schools today they have maybe a page for the Vietnam War in the history books. I gotta make sure the history is still alive that's my goal and my brothers goal too."
"Last year we went to the Wall in Washington and placed wreaths at every war memorial and at the Tomb of the Unknowns," Nankervis said. "This year marks the 50th year of the Vietnam War. Everyone should remember that and that's what we're here for to remind people."
"Families want to know what happened to their fathers, brothers and uncles," Dan Hurley said. "Rolling Thunder's Mission Statement calls for full accountability of our POW's and MIA's."
"There are countries that still allow us to come in and look for our servicemen, there are stories of our men going to other countries, but for those who care about their loved ones we keep searching it makes me feel we are doing something," Hurley said. "Everybody can do something if they want to, whatever little bit of their life they can do something. There are a few of us that really care, we try a little bit harder, it gets tiring sometimes, but we keep going. We remind the government, the media, and the public that we Will Never Forget."