Ceremony salutes POWs, MIAs for their sacrifice - East Valley Tribune: East Valley Local News

Ceremony salutes POWs, MIAs for their sacrifice

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Posted: Friday, September 19, 2008 5:47 pm | Updated: 11:06 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

Clad in a black hat and matching tie emblazoned with the "POW/MIA, You Are Not Forgotten" symbol, Arden Rowley took the stage Friday and, choking back tears, delivered a solemn address commemorating the American military servicemen and women deemed missing in action in American wars.

 VIDEO: POW/MIAs honored, remembered

Clad in a black hat and matching tie emblazoned with the "POW/MIA, You Are Not Forgotten" symbol, Arden Rowley took the stage Friday and, choking back tears, delivered a solemn address commemorating the American military servicemen and women deemed missing in action in American wars.

 VIDEO: POW/MIAs honored, remembered

A prisoner himself during the Korean War and the author and editor of several books on the subject, Rowley estimates that about 95,500 members of the armed forces are still missing in action from the American Revolutionary War to today's Iraq war.

"Most of them will never have their stories told," Rowley said.

But Friday, on National POW/MIA Recognition Day, about 40 people gathered in the chapel at the Carl T. Hayden Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Phoenix to commemorate those missing troops.

And while those MIAs may not have been able to be recognized individually, they were certainly not forgotten as a whole, said the center's director, Donald Moore.

"For their valor and selfless devotion to protect the nation they love, we owe them an invaluable debt of gratitude," Moore said.

The day has been observed on the third Friday of September each year since the 1980s, and Friday marked the 14th such memorial at the center, said Doug Mitchell Jr., a social worker at the hospital who has coordinated the event every year since it began.

While Rowley makes the commemoration of MIAs his focus in life, holding Memorial Day programs at his house in Mesa and speaking at the recognition day event several years in a row, Mitchell devotes his time to working with ex-POWs at the hospital.

"They are people whose hearts have been tested far more than ours," Mitchell said.

Malnourishment, vitamin deficiency, disease and mistreatment have taken a toll on their bodies, he said, and until the late 1980s, these problems were not fully addressed by the federal government.

In the years following World War II, for instance, Mitchell said repatriated prisoners of war were considered lesser heroes than their fallen counterparts because they didn't die for their country.

"In the last 10 years, at the end of their lives, they've finally been recognized as heroes," he said, adding that the government has taken adequate steps in providing medical care for them.

But Rowley still expressed his humility and honor for his fallen countrymen.

"(The MIAs) are the real heroes," he said. "We who came home to life's bounty are blessed."

He called attention to the lack of an effort to retrieve the missing servicemen and women and urged the audience to write their congressmen to advocate for such work.

"Although the term (MIA) contains the word action, far too little action is taken when the three letters are attached to a serviceman's name," Rowleysaid.

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