HONOLULU, Hi, –
National POW/MIA Recognition Day began in 1986. Every year since, the President of the United States issues a proclamation commemorating the holiday on the third Friday of September. More than 250 people attended this year’s ceremony, which was hosted by DPAA. The hour-long event recognized the sacrifices of Americans who have been prisoners of war, and honored those who are still missing in action.
“On behalf of all of us at the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, we are honored to have you here with us as we pause in our busy lives to remember and acknowledge the courage and sacrifice of these U.S. military personnel,” said Rear Adm. Jon Kreitz, DPAA deputy director. “They forfeited their individual freedoms and liberty as prisoners of war or lost their lives and remain unaccounted for.”
The ceremony featured guest speakers Rear Adm. (Ret.) Peter Gumataotao, director of the Daniel K. Inouye Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, and Col. (Ret.) Charles McDaniel Jr., son of U.S. Army Master Sgt. Charles McDaniel Sr., who was recently identified amongst the 55 boxes of remains DPAA received from North Korea in August. McDaniel Jr. spoke about what the day means to him.
“I am humbled this morning,” McDaniel Jr. said. “I cannot even begin to tell you how inadequate I feel, to deal with my emotions of the last few weeks, but yet my emotions certainly are no different than so many other hundreds of thousands of people who have lost loved ones.”
In addition to guest speakers, the ceremony also featured a wreath presentation, rifle salute and the reading of the names of U.S. service members who have been identified and returned home since last year’s observance. DPAA’s mission is to provide the fullest possible accounting of our missing service members to their families and the nation. The agency has positively identified 191 service members to date in 2018. Among those fortunate family members who were able to bring their loved one home this year were McDaniel Jr. and his brother.
“I have to commend DPAA and the associated agencies,” McDaniel Jr. said. “They get it. You have to realize that, even when you’re not thinking about, there is as whole bunch of people that are very talented and very serious about finding things. To all those who are saying, ‘No man left behind,’ God bless you.”
Following the official ceremony, the McDaniel brothers placed a rosette by their father’s name on the memorial wall of nearly 30,000 names who are missing, symbolizing he has been found.
“I waited 68 years for this,” McDaniel Jr. said, holding up his father’s identification tags. “I wasn’t sure it would ever come. I’m trying to show how important this moment is for lots of people, not just me. Sixty-eight years is a long time, but it happened. So don’t give up.”
While National POW/MIA Recognition Day is observed just once a year, the commitment to achieve full accounting of our missing personnel is a year-round mission for DPAA personnel.
“In dutifully serving this noble mission, every day is POW/MIA Recognition Day for each of us at DPAA and our Accounting Community partners,” said Mr. Kelly McKeague, DPAA director. “But may the day itself especially remind us of why our commitment must be resolute and our efforts tenacious.”
To fulfill our nation’s promise, DPAA continually strives to recover, repatriate and identify these heroes. For they are not forgotten.