The Bugler

Bugler Newsletter

POW-MIA Recognition Day

The Paris Peace Accords of January 27, 1973 was the agreement thirty eight years ago to end the war and restore peace in Vietnam. The U.S. pledged to cease hostilities (ground, air, naval, and to deactivate mines in all waterways) with total withdrawal to be completed in 60 days. All parties committed to no further acts of force on the ground, in the air, and on the sea. This prohibition also included terrorism and reprisals. Both Vietnamese sides were permitted to replace arms and war materials destroyed, damaged, or worn out, under supervision of the Joint Military Commission. Also agreed to was the return of all captured military personnel and foreign civilians within a 60-day period. North and South Vietnam were to begin peaceful negotiations on establishing normal relations and reunification. And so it ended. At least the war. Not the memories, nor the pain, nor the losses.

Again, on the third Friday of September - this year it's September 16th - citizens and combat veterans will join together in a nationwide observance of POW-MIA Recognition Day - never to forget the Prisoners of War or those Missing in Action who sacrificed for their country and didn't return. There will be rallies and 24-hour vigils and the reading of names, and candlelight ceremonies. Some groups will have a Missing Man Honors Ceremony with a lone round POW-MIA table, covered by a white cloth topped with an inverted water glass, a lemon slice on a bread plate, a lit candle, and an empty chair indicating that a diner is missing. Or there may be five or six place settings and empty chairs - one for each of the five branches of service, plus civilians. According to the National League of POW-MIA Families, the round table represents everlasting concern; the white tablecloth, the purity of their motives when answering the call of duty; a single red rose, a reminder of the lives of these men, their relatives and friends; the red ribbon, the determination to find them; a slice of lemon, the bitter fate endured by those captured and missing in a foreign land; a pinch of salt, the tears shed; a Bible, for strength through faith; the inverted glass, the inability to share the evening's toast; and empty chairs because they are missing. And finally, a toast to honor America's POW-MIAs and to the success of efforts to account for them.

POW-MIA FlagA black and white POW-MIA flag will fly below the U.S. flag at federal facilities and cemeteries, post offices and military installations, state capitols, schools, and ships at sea, VA medical facilities, the World War II Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the official offices of the secretaries of state, defense and veterans affairs, the director of the selective service system, and the White House. This observance is one of six days throughout the year that Congress has mandated the flying of the POW-MIA flag. The others are Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day, and Veterans Day.

In 1970, Mary Hoff, an MIA wife and member of the National League of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia recognized the need for a symbol for our POW-MIAs. The job fell to graphic designer Newt Heisley to design a flag to represent the group just as Heisley's son was returning from Marine training at Quantico. Home after becoming ill during training, Jeffrey's gaunt appearance became the inspiration for the silhouette. Newt Heisley, himself a World War II veteran who flew missions in the Pacific, was glad he got the chance to design the symbol. "I used to fly within range of the Japanese and wondered how I would hold up if I ever got captured. When I did the design, I thought how easy it would be to forget those guys," he said.

"You are not forgotten"
The now familiar slogan, "You are not forgotten," was born of that sentiment. Heisley also remarked in an interview that the flag was not originally intended to be black and white. He figured that once the League selected the design from the several he submitted, a suitable color would be chosen - one less somber, more optimistic. Obviously, the black and white motif was the one preferred.

The image was never copyrighted and is now part of the public domain. Neither Heisley nor the League ever anticipated the flag's popularity would reach the level that it has today. Newt Heisley has been honored by Congress and by many veterans groups and patriotic organizations in the years since he first conceived the flag design.

Congress passed a resolution on July 18, 1979 authorizing POW-MIA Recognition Day. On March 9, 1989, an official League flag was installed in the US Capitol Rotunda where it stands as a powerful symbol of national commitment to America's POW-MIAs. It is the only flag ever to be honored in this way. On August 10, 1990, Congress officially recognized the League's POW-MIA flag. In 1998 it was required that the POW-MIA flag be flown from military installations, national cemeteries, VA medical centers and many other federal buildings.

For more information ...
National League of POW-MIA Families:

Popular symbol
The symbol has been altered many times. The colors have switched from black with white ... to white with black ... to gold with black ... to red, white and blue. The importance lies not with the color changes but in the continued visibility of the symbol, a constant reminder of the plight of America's POW-MIAs. It remains one of the most popular organizational flags flown in the United States. Glendale keeps the flag, patches and crests in stock in a variety of sizes and styles.

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