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Members of the community honor POW-MIAs
Glasgow Daily Times - 9/25/2018
Sept. 25--GLASGOW -- More than 86,000 members of the United States of America's armed forces are still considered "unaccounted for," with nearly 73,000 of those being from World War II.
Since 1979, the third Friday of each September is set aside as National POW-MIA Remembrance Day to pause in recognition of those facts and in honor of those who have been prisoners of war and/or missing in action. In Glasgow, Rolling Thunder Kentucky Chapter 2 organizes an annual observance of the date on or near it, and this year's was Saturday.
Local Vietnam War veteran and Rolling Thunder member Cary Eaton, the keynote speaker, recounted a story from several years ago, one of the years he attended the organization's annual rally that takes place in the Washington, D.C., area, where people from all of the United States ride, mostly motorcycles, to the Pentagon. He said they usually visit many of the monuments and the numerous other things to see, as well.
As the group he was with neared the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, he heard someone yell, "Khe Sanh 1968!" He wasn't pay close attention at first, but then he heard it again and turned to see a gentleman who was missing a leg.
"And here he came, hopping on one leg," Eaton said. "He grabbed me and he hugged me, and I said, 'Khe Sanh, 1968.' That was my first encounter in-country. The 3rd Marine Division had been pinned down for almost two months."
He said they were being shot from up in the mountains, and some of the casualties were laying out on the ground, some of there bodies already rotting there because everyone was trapped.
"We were kind of a mop-up team," Eaton said. "We went in, and we saved what we could save, but that soldier looked at me, and he knew where I had been."
After a few moments of silence, he continued on, switching gears, and said patriotism isn't what it used to be, noting that organizations like Rolling Thunder and local organizations composed of veterans don't have the membership they've had before.
"If we had more of that today, 9/11 would mean so much more to the American people," Eaton said, referring to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, adding that the same would be true of the wars that followed.
When he attended the opening of the World War II memorial at the nation's capital, he said, a television news reporter asked to interview him live, and asked him on air, "Isn't it amazing?"
But he said he told her that it was a shame and a disgrace.
"The whole look on her face completely changed," Eaton said. "And she said, 'Do you mind to explain that?'"
So he did.
"I said, 'It's a shame that 1,200 World War II soldiers are dying every day that don't get to see something dedicated to the people who have been so important to the United States of America, and it's a disgrace that the United States government took this long to dedicate something to somebody that created the United States air forces.' And she said, 'You are so correct.'"
He urged the audience to to go visit that monument if at all possible.
Jimmie Dixon, president of the Rolling Thunder chapter, which organizes the annual event, spoke briefly about the organization, the mission of which is to publicize POW-MIA issues, to educate the public that many American prisoners of war were left behind after all previous wars to to protect future veterans from being left behind should they become prisoners of war or missing in action.
The national nonprofit organization also raises and provides funds for a variety of projects to support everyday needs of veterans as well.
Although many of its members are motorcycle owners or fans, it is not a motorcycle club and is not affiliated with one, and membership is not contingent on any interest in motorcycles or on being a veteran.
Dixon spoke about the POW-MIA chairs the national and local chapters have worked to have placed in prominent locations like government meeting places, stadiums and more, one of which was directly in front of the podium.
The speeches, which had been preceded by an opening prayer, the singing of the national anthem and Pledge of Allegiance, were then followed by the performance of the POW-MIA missing-man table ceremony by members of the Barren County High School Jr. ROTC. The circular table has five chairs and five place settings, representing the five branches of the U.S. military, and various other symbols to recognize those who are not able to join their family members for a meal.
As one cadet reads an explanation of the symbols, five other cadets march toward and around the table, each carrying a cap from a uniform of a different branch. As the song "Soldier of the Clouds" is played, the caps are placed on the table and the five cadets slowly raise their swords and bring them to a central point above the table. Afterward Eaton had the honor of lighting the single red candle in the center of the table.
Following that ceremony, Billy Houchens, a member of Disabled American Veterans Chapter 20 in Glasgow, placed a black-and-white wreath at the base of the POW-MIA flag. The wreath was later to be moved to the flagpole at Beula C. Nunn Park, home of the Glasgow-Barren County Veterans Wall of Honor, where the event usually takes place, but it had been moved due to rainy weather to the gymnasium at the Army National Guard Armory.
Then, just outside the gym, members of the DAV carried out a 21-gun salute, and Roy Dial, a member of Rolling Thunder, played taps.
(c)2018 the Glasgow Daily Times (Glasgow, Ky.)
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