email@example.com The Winchester Star
PUBLICATION: Winchester Star, The (VA)
DATE: September 21, 2015
Participants in the 2015 POW/MIA Recognition Day in Jim Barnett Park on Saturday salute as the American flag is raised at the beginning of the ceremony. (Photo by Jeff Taylor/The Winchester Star)
The Winchester Star
WINCHESTER — The more than 83,000 American men and women who have been declared prisoners of war (POW) or missing in action (MIA) were honored at Saturday’s POW/MIA Recognition Day at Jim Barnett Park.
“This day is about the families that have (members who are or were) prisoners of war and missing in action,” said Richard Orndorff, president of Rolling Thunder Inc. Virginia Chapter One, who co-hosted the 10th annual event with the Department of Virginia — American Legion Riders. “This day is for those that sat there with their people in captivity.”
The third Friday in September is recognized as National Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Day.
Saturday’s event tied the day of recognition with the 10th anniversary of the dedication of a POW/MIA memorial erected by Rolling Thunder Inc. Virginia Chapter One in Jim Barnett Park. The memorial was turned over to the city on Nov. 11, 2005, after a year of construction.
The memorial includes a large, granite marker with the names of the 62 Virginians identified as prisoners of war and missing in action.
Saturday’s ceremony included speeches and musical selections, as well as a Missing Man Table presentation. A table with six empty seats representing the five branches of the military, as well as one seat for American civilians, was set and left empty near the ceremony’s podium. During the ceremony caps were placed on the empty plates to recognize those who are missing.
“Who are these people?,” asked retired Command Sgt. Maj. Jorge Gutierrez of Woodstock, one of Saturday’s guest speakers. “They’re poor and rich and they come in every color… They have seen the fear of their enemy and experienced the fear themselves… They’re not just men and women — they’re warriors.”
“I’m not here for you sitting in the sun,” he said to the crowd of about 100 who gathered for the ceremony. “We’re here because of those that are gone and we can’t bring them back.”
Gutierrez said he was shaking and crying when he visited the memorial for the first time.
“In the battlefield I’ve seen way, way too many memorials and it brought back memories,” he said.
He encouraged those in attendance to be active in attempting to recoup those who are missing.
“How about we stop setting goals and achieve a few,” he said.
The Department of Defense’s POW/MIA Accounting Agency website lists 83,114 American personnel as missing from conflicts in World War II, the Korean, Vietnam, Cold and Gulf wars and other conflicts.
Of those missing, 75 percent of the losses occurred in the Asian Pacific and more than 41,000 are presumed lost at sea.— Contact Amy Alonzo
Richard Orndorff, president of Rolling Thunder Inc. Virginia Chapter One, welcomes guests to the 2015 POW/MIA
Recognition Day at the POW/MIA memorial in Jim Barnett Park. The memorial was completed in 2005. This year
marks its 10th anniversary.