Fort Bliss leaders honored U.S. service members missing in action and prisoners of war during a solemn commemoration flag raising during national POW/MIA Recognition Day on September 20.
The event, held in front of the 1st Armored Division Headquarters, focused on remembering the more than 81,000 Americans that remain missing from WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, the Gulf Wars, and other conflicts according to the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Accounting Agency.
The leaders placed a special emphasis on those POW and MIA soldiers from El Paso.
Lt. Col. Colin Mahle, battalion commander, 4th Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Armored Division assisted in raising the National POW/ MIA flag over the installation.
National POW/ MIA Recognition Day is one of six days a year that the flag must be flown- mandated by the Defense Authorization Act. The other events include Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day and Veterans Day.
Col. Matthew Eichburg, acting senior commander, 1st Armored Division and Fort Bliss, and Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Cobb, 1st AD Command Sergeant Major and Fort Bliss, conducted a wreath-laying at the division’s Operation Iraqi Freedom-1 memorial as part of the event.
Operation Iraqi Freedom was the last conflict in which the United States had prisoners of war. In 2003, after almost three weeks in captivity, seven American POWs returned back to American Soil at Fort Bliss.
Following a moment of silence to honor POW/MIA service members and remember the incredible sacrifices borne by their loved ones and families, the solemn sunrise commemoration included a reading of names of El Paso citizens who have served and are still considered to be MIA. They are:
Cpl. Richard Aguilar, U.S. Army (Korean War)
Capt. Ronald Leonard Watson, U.S. Army (Vietnam War)
1st Lt. Michael John Shea, U.S. Marine Corps (Vietnam War)
Sgt. Jesus Armando Gonzalez, U.S. Army (Vietnam War)
Spc. Michael Burns, U.S. Army (Vietnam War)
Pfc. Jose Jesus Gonzalez, U.S. Army (Vietnam War)
Pvt. Arthur William Kerns, U.S. Army (Vietnam War)
National POW/MIA Recognition Day is observed annually on the third Friday of September to remember and honor service members who were prisoners of war or are still considered missing in action. Out of the more than 81,000 missing, 75% of the losses are located in the Indo-Pacific, and more than 41,000 of the missing are presumed lost at sea (i.e. ship losses, known aircraft water losses, etc.).
The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency provides the fullest possible accounting for the nation’s missing service personnel and deploys its workforce worldwide in support of bringing closure to those families and to the nation.