Take time to remember MIAs, POWs

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Column by Jim Clark

About a dozen or so years ago, I was sitting in my newspaper office in New Smyrna Beach when a man came in to see me.
He was dressed in rough-looking clothes, and had a long beard that looked as if he hadn’t trimmed it in months.
I immediately stereotyped him as, well, you can guess, especially since I found out he was a veteran, and we’ve all heard stories about down and out vets.
His name was Tom Ryan, and it turned out he was one of the nicest people I met over there, and one who was most dedicated to what he was trying to accomplish.
Tom was on a mission to have a bridge on U.S. Highway 1 between New Smyrna Beach and Port Orange named in honor of POWs and MIAs, that’s prisoners of war and those missing in action. It was his passion to keep these people’s plights in front of the public, and, some years after I left, he succeeded.
It was Tom who introduced me to POW-MIA Remembrance Day, and the POW-MIA flag. Up to that point, I am ashamed to say I didn’t know either existed.
The Remembrance Day is observed on the third Friday in September, which is today, Sept. 21. As I write this I haven’t been notified of any special ceremonies.
Many of us remember that big day during the Vietnam War when POWs were released. The joyous reunions with their families were shown nationwide as the country celebrated their return.
Some people say there are still POWs over there. Of course, the “Rambo” movies helped perpetuate this notion.
Whether this is true is up for debate, but what is not contested is the list of MIAs, not only from Vietnam but from all other conflicts dating back to World War II.
For the families of the POWs who returned home, there were some joyous celebrations as their loved ones came home.
But for the families of the MIAs, there were no such events. They are still left with the uncertainty of what happened to their kin who went off to war and never came back.
I applaud those who are constantly trying to find out what happened to the MIAs, those who want accountability from the foreign countries in which we fought. With the advances in DNA identification, it is now much easier to take some bones and identify them properly.
While the efforts continue, we should all realize what these families and friends are going through, and take a special moment Friday to remember those who were lost, then found, and those who were lost, and haven’t been located.
And if you’re ever driving down U.S. 1 in Southeast Volusia County, when you cross that bridge over Spruce Creek make sure you mentally thank Tom Ryan for keep the plight of these folks in out minds.
Jim Clark is the editor of the South Marion Citizen.