All gave some, some gave all.
And some are still out there.
Members of Neosho's Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 4142 and Ladies Auxiliary remembered America's missing war veterans in a stirring ceremony Friday evening at the post headquarters.
Friday was National Prisoners of War/Missing in Action Recognition Day.
A symbolic POW/MIA table, with a tilted empty chair draped in the black POW/MIA flag, was set up and the appropriate ceremony observed. Post commander Jeff Fulkerson read aloud the symbolism each item on the table represented, with the word “remember” following each one and punctuated by a bell.
“This is a ceremony that I truly love to do, but on the other hand it's one of the truly hardest that I've ever had to do,” Fulkerson said. “It shouldn't be so hard to remember a young man who went to war with you and never came back. But it's a tough one.”
Prior to that, Fulkerson talked about the 83,420 unaccounted for Americans from all conflicts since World War II. They were either taken prisoner or went missing in action, and were never seen by their families again. He asked all the veterans in the room to stand.
“These are our veterans, these are the ones who came home,” Fulkerson stated. “These are the ones who came home and made families, and prospered. But what I’m talking about tonight is the ones who did not come home. They’re still missing. They’re still gone. They aren’t here. Do you know where they are? They aren’t here.”
Fulkerson spoke about each war in turn and the Americans who served in those wars and whose ultimate fates have never been learned. The list of service members still unaccounted for includes 73,681 from World World War II, 7,947 from the Korean War, 1,660 from the Vietnam War, 126 from the Cold War, two from Operation Desert Storm, three from Operation Iraqi Freedom and one from a 1986 air strike over Libya, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.
Speaking about those Americans unaccounted for from the Cold War and on, Fulkerson said it seems like a small number.
“But those are people we don’t have here right now and that should be,” he said. “I have a really tough time trying to figure out where in the world did we let these people down? Was it our fault? Was it their fault? No. It wasn’t anybody’s fault. They’re just not here.”
Fulkerson referenced ongoing efforts by the Department of Defense’s Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office to locate and bring at least the bodies of missing personnel home.
Page 2 of 2 - “It’s a long and hard tedious way to go about doing something,” Fulkerson said. “Once in a while we get lucky. We find one of them, we bring them home and bury them in our own soil. That’s what we’re about.”
Rounding off the ceremony, Ladies Auxiliary commander Nancy Brock sang “Some Gave All.” Midway through, some in the room began to silently shed tears and then everyone joined hands and held them in the air until the song concluded.
Gary Brock, a Vietnam War veteran, said afterward that Friday’s ceremony meant a lot to him personally.
“There are people missing that need to come home,” Brock said. “A lot of people died over there and, the way I feel about it, the government isn’t doing enough to get them back. I feel they need to come home. That’s about all I can tell you.”