About 75 people attended a solemn service Friday morning on the Capitol Campus in Olympia to honor prisoners of war and American service members who are missing in action.
Every year, National POW/MIA Recognition Day is held on the third Friday of September. Mary Videen, 54, of SeaTac said she wishes it were a federally recognized holiday, such as Veterans Day and Memorial Day, so that schools and businesses could be closed to honor affected service members and their families.
Videen is a member of the Washington State POW/MIA Concerned Citizens. She rode buses for 2— hours to attend the ceremony.
“This is my annual pilgrimage down to Olympia,” she said. “I like coming down here to support the POWs and their families.”
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There are more than 83,000 Americans who are still unaccounted for from World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War, the Vietnam War and the 1991 Gulf War, according to the U.S. Department of Defense. Every year, search and recovery efforts and advances in identifying remains with DNA testing help bring those numbers down.
“We have two Vietnam veterans who were brought home this year,” said Colleen Gilbert, with the state Department of Veterans Affairs. “We only have 41 Vietnam veterans who have not come home.”
The recovered MIAs were Marines Pfc. Daniel A. Benedett of Seattle, whose crew was shot down off the coast of Cambodia in 1975, and Air Force Maj. Larry James Hanley of Walla Walla, who was shot down over Laos in 1969.
Both were buried with military honors earlier this year.
Col. Stephen Kent with the Washington Army National Guard at Camp Murray delivered the keynote speech at the event, which was held at the state’s POW/MIA Memorial, near the Winged Victory Monument.
“I can’t imagine a worse fate than to be a POW -- or worse, an MIA,” he said.
Kent added that it’s important not to just remember the thousands of missing service members, but their loved ones as well.
“There are fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, aunts and uncles associated with every figure,” he said. “Their war continues every day.”