JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON, Alaska —
In remembrance of America’s prisoners of war and those missing in action, the Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson community gathered for a ceremony followed by a ruck march and Armed Services YMCA of Alaska food drive Sept. 21.
“It is with tremendous respect and gratitude that we, the men and women of team JBER, honor our fellow warriors who were held as prisoners of war and those still listed as missing in action,” said U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Adragel Legarda, a 673d Medical Support Squadron lab technician and narrator for the ceremony. “Their sacrifices while defending our nation’s interests and upholding the cost of freedom and democracy abroad must never be forgotten.”
More than 82,000 Americans remain missing from World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, the Gulf wars and other conflicts.
Out of the 82,000 missing, 75 percent of the losses are in the Indo-Pacific, and more than 41,000 are presumed lost at sea, in ship losses, known aircraft water losses, and the like.
During the service, members of the Alaska Vets motorcycle club conducted a fallen warrior ceremony.
“Since ancient times, soldiers paid their respects to fallen warriors by erecting a small monument on the battlefield comprised of their battle gear and weapons to mark the passing of a fellow warrior and to let others know that this sacrifice should not be easily forgotten,” said Ron Nelson, a spokesman and friend of Alaska Vets Motorcycle Club. “Times have changed but not the ritual… this symbol of reverence to those who have passed before us continues to this day. This is our salute to you, you are not forgotten.”
Near the event’s conclusion, service members representing all branches of the military placed wreaths as a tribute to those yet to return.
“Today we have the honor and the duty to observe POW/MIA Recognition Day,” Legarda said during the ceremony. “Our hope is that you will reflect on the solemn nature of this day and the deep reverence invoked as we renew our sacred promise to never forget our comrades who remain unaccounted for.”
Immediately following the ceremony at Hangar 1, several service members participated in a 5K ruck march to pay homage. During this march, personnel each carried roughly 20 pounds of canned and non-perishable food items in their packs and donated it to the ASYMCA of Alaska.