Osan remembers POW/MIA service members

by Staff Sgt. Sergio A. Gamboa, 51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Stripes Korea

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea -- Team Osan hosted a 24-hour vigil run and remembrance ceremony to commemorate prisoner of war and missing in action military members, Sept. 20-21, 2018.

National POW/MIA Recognition Day is observed every third Friday in September. According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, more than 82,000 Americans remain missing from WWII, the Korean War, Vietnam War, Cold War, Gulf Wars and other recent conflicts.

“There’s a lot of them still out there,” said Col. Kevin R. Mantovani, commander of the 51st Mission Support Group in his opening ceremony remarks. “As Americans we never forget and that’s why we’ve gathered here today.”

Of the 82,000 service members missing, 7,685 went MIA during the Korean War.

Mantovani spoke on the repatriation between the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Republic of Korea and the U.S., where 55 fallen members were repatriated July 27, 2018, a day of evidence that POW/MIA members are not forgotten in the hearts of many. He also asked members to keep in mind why they wear the uniform as he recited the code of conduct.

“I am an American, fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense,”

— Article I, Code of Conduct for Members of the United States Armed Forces

After the conclusion of the ceremony, the 24-hour vigil began. Airmen, soldiers, veterans and family members ran and walked for the next 23 hours 59 minutes and 59 seconds, commemorating those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice and those still out there.

“We have to remember our past and where we would be without the sacrifice of those who came before us,” said Tech. Sgt. Kurt Kanzler, a precision guidance munitions production supervisor with the 51st Munitions Squadron. “We need to keep them in the forefront of our mind, and while I was running I remembered and remembered all those MIA and POWs.”

As members arrived at the closing ceremony, the attendees paid tribute to those missing and captured. The ceremony concluded with a brick laying service in which 19 new names were added to the names displayed in the POW/MIA memorial that sits outside the Osan Theater.

“There is still hope for those of you who have loved ones out there,” said Mantovani. “Each and every one of those lives is precious to us.”

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