Observing POW/MIA Recognition Day today can be as simple as writing a card to a former POW, visiting a veterans home or donating to a veteran organization such as the Vietnam Veterans Association (VVA). Helping veterans through VVA’s ClothingDonations.org is easy: Gather up any lightly used clothing and household goods you no longer need or want and call for a free, contactless #donation pickup. VVA will resell your donated goods to thrift and secondhand stores and use the proceeds to help fund veterans programs such as the ones that identify and local MIAs’ cremains and give them a proper burial.
Work continues to locate and identify POW/MIAs buried as “Unknowns” in national cemeteries. The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency provides the fullest possible accounting for missing personnel from past conflicts, coordinating with hundreds of countries and agencies around the world. Forensic genetic genealogy services can also offer families assistance in locating POW/MIAs and descendants; listen to the “Stories of Sacrifice” podcast to hear profiles of several service members located and commemorate National POW/MIA Recognition Day this year.
While the POW/MIA flag “reminds us to never forget our prisoners of war and missing in action,” says Military.com, bracelets were introduced in the 1970s as a more personal form of remembrance. They are still worn by the friends and relatives of Vietnam’s 725 POWs and more than 1,600 MIAs, as well as those remembering service members imprisoned or missing in action from other wars. Voices in Vital America (VIVA) “distributed nearly 5 million bracelets during the 1960s and 1970s to draw attention to the missing men,” says POW/MIA Families, which continues its work today.
Celebrated on the third Friday of September, POW/MIA Recognition Day ensures that America remembers to account for those who never returned from war. While Vietnam veterans were instrumental in making the day an annual observance, World War II had the most POWs (130,201) and MIAs (73,515). The POW/MIA flag flies with the Stars and Stripes at the White House on POW/MIA Recognition Day, Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day and Veterans Day, and is the only other flag allowed to do so.
Honoring the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military, Memorial Day was originally known as Decoration Day when it originated in the years immediately after the Civil War, according to History.com. Waterloo, N.Y., held the first communitywide remembrance on May 5, 1866, decorating soldiers’ graves with flowers and flags. Two years later, Gen. John A. Logan declared a nationwide day of remembrance to be held on May 30. Memorial Day didn’t become a uniform federal holiday until 1971, however, with a floating date to ensure a three-day weekend at the start of summer.