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Remembering the POWs and MIAs

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Column by Jim Clark

By Jim Clark

Several years ago, shortly after I went to New Smyrna Beach to become the editor of the newspaper there, a call came back from the front that there was a man to see me.

This man had a full beard and shaggy hair, and some of the front office people were a little bit apprehensive. But I welcomed him back to my office, and I was glad I did.

His name was Tom Ryan, and he was a veteran, and he briefed me on his efforts to get a bridge on U.S. 1 at the north end of New Smyrna renamed. The bridge crossed over Spruce Creek and connected New Smyrna to Port Orange, and was used by thousands of vehicles every day.

Ryan wanted it named POW/MIA Bridge, remembering all those who carried those designations. POW stands for prisoners of war, and MIA for missing in action. There is even a dark flag that symbolizes all those veterans.

Ryan worked tirelessly to get this designation. With the help of then State Rep. Suzanne Kosmas, a Democrat who is now in Congress and fighting for her political life, the bill started through the Florida Legislature.

For my whole time there, he kept me informed, not only of the progress of the bill but also of local veterans' events. We ended up talking a lot about the issue.

Finally, Ryan got to see his dream fulfilled as the bridge was dedicated by state and local officials and veterans groups early in 2008. If I had known, I would have been there.

I wrote several stories, columns and editorials concerning this project, which was new to me, because until I met Tom Ryan, I never knew that POWs/MIAs were such an issue.

The third Friday in September, which is today, is celebrated annually as National POW/MIA Recognition Day. It's one of the few days that, nationally, the POW/MIA flag flies on poles with the Stars and Stripes.

It's very unlikely that there are still living POWs held in places such as Vietnam. Even the conspiracy theorists have to admit that, with a war ending 35 years ago, it's not probable that POWs survive, particularly because of the conditions under which these prisoners had to live.

The MIA issue is different. There are many, many families across the country still living with the unknown, wondering what happened to their loved ones who were declared missing in action and whose remains, if any, have never been found. We should be remembering those families and hoping that they get the strength to go on, although they may never know what happened.

Meanwhile, today is the day to honor those POW/MIA veterans. It is hoped that everyone takes a moment to realize that the effects of war last far beyond the years of actual combat.

Jim Clark is the editor of the South Marion Citizen. He can be reached at editor@smcitizen.com or 352-854-3986l