POW/MIA Vigil planned for Sept. 20-21 at Veterans Memorial

POW/MIA Vigil planned for Sept. 20-21 at Veterans MemorialNational POW/MIA Recognition Day 2014 is celebrated on Friday, Sept. 19, and is a day of remembrance and hope for the speedy and safe return of American Prisoners of War, and those still Missing in Action and for their families who continue to burn the candle of hope. It also seeks the return of the remains of fallen soldiers.

The first official commemoration of POW/MIAs was July 18, 1979. In 1986, the National League of Families proposed the third Friday in September as a day to recognize and remember POW/MIAs. This date was selected as it is not associated with any wars. Each year, the president of the United States issues a proclamation on this day.

Tioga County will honor five fallen heroes whose remains have not yet been recovered. Remembered are four from the early Korean War – three whose remains were not recovered and one who is buried near where he died in South Korea. Of the four, one was KIA, one MIA and two were POWs. Also, a WWII Navy sailor whose submarine was lost, presumed mined in the Yellow Sea.

Tioga County veterans will observe POW/MIA Recognition Day with a 24-hour vigil from 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 20,  to 3 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 21,  at the Tioga County Veterans Memorial at the Courthouse Square in Owego.

Focal point is the POW/MIA Missing Man Table. The tablecloth chosen is always white to symbolize the pure intention with which those honored have served. A small table is set for just one person to reflect the vulnerability of one prisoner against his enemy.

A single rose in a vase sits on the table to symbolize the blood that has been shed and to represent the families and loved ones that have been left behind and the faith they uphold that their loved one will one day return.

A slice of lemon is placed on a bread plate as a reminder of their bitter fate and the salt on the plate symbolizes the tears that have been shed by their families as they quietly wait.

A glass on the table is inverted to signify their inability to be with us and join the toast. A candle on the table represents the light in our hearts that accompanies the hope that they will one day find their way home. A chair is placed at the table and remains empty, for they are not with us.

Tioga County POW/MIA Committee Co-Chairs Tioga Post 401 Adjutant and 3rd Vice Commander Tom Simons and Legion Commander Ed Bidwell encourage local POW/MIA Families, veterans and the public to pay tribute to the more than 83,000 U.S. service members still serving as prisoners of war and missing in action.

For more information, contact Tom by calling 687-5799 or Ed at 972-8447. You may also leave a message at Legion Post 40l at 687-3401.

Those coming are reminded to bring a lawn chair.

Eleven details in shifts from veteran organizations in Tioga County wearing their service uniform will stand at attention around the POW/MIA Missing Man Table. Behind the two person details are Tioga County Fallen Hero Memorials for Afghanistan, Iraq, Vietnam, Korea, World Wars Two and One, the new Civil War Medal of Honor, Tioga County Union Memorial and Tioga County Memorial for all who served.

The vigil will begin from 3 to 5:15 with an opening ceremony by the American Legion 401. From 5:15 to 7:25 p.m., the Glenn A. Warner Post 1371 VFW will begin their detail. From 7:25 to 9:35 p.m. will be the Ladies Auxiliary of Owego VFW Post 1371. From 9:35 to 11:45 p.m. will be Legion Post 40l Sons of the American Legion. From 11:45 p.m. to 1:55 a.m. will be the Candor American Legion Post 907. From 1:55 to 4:05 a.m. will be the Tioga County Marine Corps League. From 4:05 to 6:15 a.m. will be Nichols American Legion Post 1624. From 6:15 to 8:25 a.m. will be the Men’s Auxiliary of Owego VFW Post 1371. From 8:25 to 10:35 a.m. will be Waverly VFW Post 8104. From 10:35 a.m. to 12:45 p.m. will be Waverly American Legion Post 492. From 12:45 to 3 p.m., the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 480 will close the ceremony.

WWII Richford Sailor Ernest Echorst was one of 60 crewmen aboard the USS Scorpion while on her fourth war patrol she struck a mine at the entrance to the Yellow Sea in mid-January 1944 and was destroyed.

The Korean Conflict Casualty file of 1950 to 1957 from the Office of the Secretary of Defense provided the honored names but not hometowns of the Tioga County Korean War Dead, POWs and Missing.

A total of 7,245 American soldiers and airmen were captured by the Chinese and North Koreans during the Korean War. A total of 2,806 American POWs died in captivity (almost 39 percent of all U.S. POWs). Six hundred-seventy U.S. POWs escaped from captivity – all of them from temporary holding facilities near the front lines shortly after capture. More than 8,100 U.S. servicemen remain missing in action (MIA) from the Korean War.

Army Cpl. James Henry Martin was taken as a POW while fighting the enemy clearing an opposing forces roadblock at Hoengsong, South Korea on Feb. 12, 1951. He died as a POW in Suan Mining Camp on Aug. 10, 1951. His nephew Lou Martin of the Valley says Cpl. Martin is buried near the schoolhouse in which they were held.

Army Sgt. Leonard C. Hull became MIA while fighting the enemy near Taejon, South Korea, on July 20, 1950. He was presumed dead on March 3, 1954. His remains were not recovered.

Army Cpl. Richard Henderson was listed as MIA while fighting the enemy near Hagaru, North Korea, on Dec. 6, 1950. He was presumed dead on Dec. 31, 1953. His remains were not recovered.

Army Pfc. Gene E. Barton, was KIA on Dec. 2, 1950 while fighting the enemy in North Korea. His remains were not recovered. His sister Verna Bowman of Lansing says the family was told he was KIA east of the Chosen Reservoir in North Korea.

With help from the community, a new Tioga County POW/MIA Honor List must be done. The original copy was lost in the September 2011 flood.

Here’s how families can help. From all wars provide the names and service data on all Tioga County servicemen deceased or living who were Prisoners of War or Missing in Action and those whose remains were not recovered, especially from the early days of the Korean War around the Chosen Reservoir area.

Email this POW/MIA information to Owego VFW Post 1371 Memorial Day Chairman jraftis2@stnyrr.com or call 687-4229. Honored names of Tioga County POWs/MIAs will be used in the POW/MIA Vigil ceremony and for a Tioga County POW/MIA Tribute Plaque.

By displaying a red ribbon, wearing a POW/MIA bracelet or flying a black POW/MIA flag beneath the American flag, citizen’s show that they will not be satisfied until all Americans being held are released, the fullest possible accounting is made of the missing and the remains of those who died serving this nation are returned.

Defense Prisoner of War and Missing Personnel Office Missing in Action numbers are WWII – 73,661, Korea – 7,907, Cold War – 126, Vietnam – 1,645, and Iraq – 6, for a total of 83,345.

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