“You Are Not Forgotten.”
These four words are printed in bold, white letters across a flag that is proudly flying in every state today. The powerful imagery features the silhouette of a man — a soldier — standing near a watchtower lined with barbed wire.
Mary Hoff created this flag almost half a century ago in memory of her missing husband Michael. Now, it represents every American prisoner of war, and all our brave warriors who have gone missing in action. It is displayed on the third Friday of every September to commemorate these heroes.
This national observance began after the end of the Vietnam War. In memoriam of the missing, Congress created National POW / MIA Recognition Day in 1979. 1,500 Americans were officially MIA in Vietnam. There were over 8,000 in the Korean War. An astounding 14 percent of World War II casualties were never recovered — that’s 78,000-plus men.
A prominent figure in recent news has been Senator and former POW John McCain. The famed war hero passed away on August 25th at the age of 81, after making the decision to end life-sustaining treatment for his terminal cancer.
McCain came from a line of respected Navy admirals, but he set himself apart with his incredible strength of character. After being shot down over Hanoi, Vietnam in 1967, he endured five and a half years of torture and confinement at the hands of the Northern Vietnamese. During this time, McCain refused their offer of early release unless every man taken before him was given the same repatriation.
Permanently disabled by his captors, McCain retired from the Navy as a captain in 1981. He went on to become a United States Senator and a presidential nominee. His level of dedication was such that, merely two weeks after invasive brain surgery in 2017, he returned to his work in the Senate.
John McCain was a man of conviction; he was held in high esteem by political leaders from both parties. Many of them attended his funeral, including former presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama. McCain’s daughter, Meghan, took to the podium, delivering the most personal and moving eulogy of the ceremony.
“John McCain was not defined by prison, by the navy, by the senate, by the republican party or by any single one of the deeds in his absolutely extraordinary life,” she said. “John McCain was defined by love.”
Today, veteran rallies and prayers are taking place across the country, with posters hung in campuses and public buildings promoting the occasion. Ceremonies are being held in the Pentagon, in war memorials, in museums.
To all the brave soldiers who have not returned from the line of duty, and whose family members do not have a body to bury; to the warriors that have been wrongfully imprisoned in their service to our country; we see you. Your sacrifice is recognized by military and civilians nationwide.
In the words of Meghan McCain:
“It is good to remember we are Americans. We don’t put our heroes on pedestals just to remember them, we raise them up because we want to emulate their virtues; this is how we honor them, this is how we will honor you.”
“National POW/MIA Recognition Day in the United States.” Timeanddate.com, www.timeanddate.com/holidays/us/pow-mia-recognition-day.
Hubbard, Lauren. “In Her Emotional Eulogy for Her Father John McCain, Meghan McCain Says America Was Always Great.” Town & Country, Town & Country, 1 Sept. 2018, www.townandcountrymag.com/society/politics/a22892378/meghan-mccain-eulogy-for-john-mccain-full-transcript/.