82,468 service members: You are not forgotten

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Tiffany Lundberg
  • 21st Space Wing Public Affairs
Dating back to World War II through the Korean War, Vietnam War, Cold War, Iraq and other conflicts, there are approximately 82,468 service members still missing in action according to the Defense Prisoners of War, Missing in Action Accounting Agency.

The 82,468 POW/MIA were remembered during the Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, annual 2017 POW/MIA Remembrance Week, Sept. 11-15. The week encompassed a Flag Raising Ceremony, 24-hour run, and concluded with a Remembrance and Retreat Ceremony.

“These moments for us to pause and consider the sacrifice of the families and the sacrifice of the warriors who have gone before us in service to our nation, serve as an opportunity to consider the past but it also serves as something to be mindful of as we continue to serve today, as we continue to serve tomorrow and into the future,” said Col. Todd Moore, 21st Space Wing commander.

Kicking off the week just as the sun came up, nine flights of students and members from the Forrest L. Vosler Non-Commissioned Officer Academy and Peterson AFB formed up to raise the American and POW/MIA flags, Sept. 11.

The flags stayed up all week through the 24-hour run where 432 members of Team Pete volunteered to run a three mile loop to keep the POW/MIA flag moving for a total of 148 miles.

The week concluded with a Remembrance and Retreat Ceremony. On the final loop of the 24-hour run, the Peterson Fire Department, 21st Security Forces Squadron, Colorado Patriot Guard Riders and the Green Knights Military Motorcycle Club escorted the runners from start to finish into the Remembrance Ceremony. The runners carried the flags of the five U.S. military branches and the POW/MIA flag.

During the ceremony, the Code of Conduct was read by six service members including Airmen, Sailors, Soldiers and a Canadian service member.

Retired Army Master Sgt. Edwin Beck also spoke at the ceremony. Beck is a former World War II gunner in the 106th Infantry Division, 422nd Regiment when he was captured.

“I was MIA, I was a POW, now I am an ex-POW/MIA,” said Beck. “I’m privileged to be amongst these young troops here because you are the troops and the people that are going to keep this country going.”

Beck joined the Army in 1943 and on Dec. 19, 1944 during the Battle of the Bulge, Beck’s unit was surrounded and captured by the German forces. They were forced to march more than 150 miles in five days to a POW camp. Beck spent approximately six months as a POW before he escaped, said Jim Wear, Remembrance Ceremony guest speaker and Salute to American Veterans founder and organizer.

Moore concluded the ceremony before the American and POW/MIA flags were brought down in the Retreat Ceremony.

“In the face of the uncertainty surrounding us whether it’s in eastern Europe, east and south china seas, the Korean peninsula, the Middle East, we must bring honor to our heritage by pushing the mission forward and taking care of each other.

“We must know that as we move forward, as we push as we face our adversaries that no matter what happens, you are remembered. We will not leave an Airman behind. I am honored and humbled to serve with you. May we never forget,” Moore concluded.

A total of 468 Team Pete members volunteered throughout the week either by running, staffing a booth, coordinating logistics, 21st SFS escorting the runners for 24 hours, 21st Civil Engineering providing equipment, or participating in the multiple ceremonies.