The Cyber Center of Excellence and Fort Gordon held a ceremony in honor of POW/MIA Recognition Day on Sept. 17 in Darling Hall. Normally the ceremony would be held outside at the longstanding POW/MIA monument but was moved indoors due to inclement weather.
Observed every year on the third Friday in September, POW/MIA Recognition Day was established in 1979 through a proclamation signed by President Jimmy Carter. It is a time to honor all former American prisoners of war and remember those still missing in action.
According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, there are about 81,600 Americans still missing from conflicts dating back to World War II through the present. About 41,000 of those MIA are presumed lost at sea.
Addressing a room of distinguished guests, Gordon Garrison Commander Col. Shaw Pick said that POW/MIA Recognition Day isn’t just about honoring those brave Americans. It’s also a time to “recommit ourselves to accounting for the over 80,000 who remain missing.”
“Today, as we fly the iconic black and white flag across our entire country, it’s not only a symbol to honor the POW and MIA community, it’s a reminder of our sacred obligation to the men and women we place in harm’s way that we never leave our fallen behind,” Pick said. “There are still a number of MIAs out there across the globe, and every year we are able to bring some home and give their families a level of closure.”
It is a mission that is especially close to one former POW’s heart.
Retired Army Col. Querin “Quin” Herlik, of Augusta, was on his second tour during the Vietnam War when the aircraft he was piloting was shot down over Cambodia on Feb. 12, 1969. He and three of his crew spent 30 days in captivity; his co-pilot did not survive. Reflecting on his time in captivity, Herlik said he worried about his wife and three young children more than he worried about himself.
“I tell people that the families back there have it tougher than a POW does because [a POW] knows his status… but [the families] don’t know his status,” Herlik explained.
Despite feeling “deeply honored” to be able to participate in Fort Gordon’s ceremony, Herlik insisted that the attention should not be focused him, but instead on the families of those who are still missing.
“Those who have someone missing in action never give up hope,” Herlik said. “Families are still suffering … it’s very important that they keep looking for the remains.”
The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency has dedicated professionals whose mission is to provide “the fullest possible accounting for missing personnel from past conflicts to their families and the nation.” The public can view an archive of those found on the agency’s website at: www.dpaa.mil/Our-Missing/Recently-Accounted-For. The most recently accounted for were two Navy personnel who were reportedly lost in 1941 but then announced as found on Sept. 20.
“Though we were able to bring these men home, there is still much left to do,” Pick said. “This organization came about because of advocacy from POW/MIA organizations, so your voice is heard. Please continue to advocate for those who are still missing.”