And as a way to remember those soldiers who have been missing in action, Union City leaders were joined by many officials and onlookers last week across from City Hall in honoring the 2003 National POW/MIA Recognition Day. POW/MIA (Prisoner of War/Missing in Action) Recognition Day is held on the third Friday in September each year.
Union City Mayor Brian Stack was joined by Commissioners Tilo Rivas, Michael Leggiero, Christopher Irizarry, and Luis Martin. Also joining the remembrance ceremony were the Emerson High School Marine Corps Junior ROTC and the Union Hill High School History Club.
Also, a United States Marine, Sgt. Erick P. Bruno, was on hand to read a letter from Senior Director for Support from the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office John A. Brown recognizing and thanking Union City for honoring the nation's POWs and MIAs. Bruno read, in part, "... but freedom lies not on the battlefields where our POWs and MIAs have fought so valiantly. It lies in the hearts of the people of entire nations. It lies in ideals so richly American and it rests on the shoulders of those who we honor on this special day."
A poster honoring the troops currently involved in combat operations and those who have been taken prisoner was created by the Missing Personnel Office in June, 2003, and copies of this poster were distributed at the ceremony. The picture, dominated by an American Infantryman running into battle, includes the now painfully familiar POW/MIA flag in the background, its words proclaiming "You are Not Forgotten."
According to the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office in Washington D.C., more than 88,000 Americans are still missing from Desert Storm; the Vietnam War; the Korean War; the Cold War and World War II. More than 140,000 Americans since World War I have been captured and kept as prisoners of war.
In his opening remarks, Union City Mayor Brian Stack said, "With an end to the war in Iraq not yet in sight, unfortunately we will probably be adding to that awful number. This morning, we commemorate such a solemn state of events, I would hope that we all leave here with a prayer in our hearts for the POW/MIAs and for their families who still wait, who have been waiting, some for over 60 years, for some word, some hope that they will see their loved ones again."
Added Stack, "As the years go by, this hope seems to fade. But miracles do happen, and if we didn't believe in miracles, we would be a lesser nation."
Union Hill History Club President Andres Acebo read a speech in which he said, "We are gathered here today to pledge our honor and to implement our respect to those Americans who are encompassed in the ranks of MIA and POW. We are here to pay remembrance and declare that we will never forget them. Today we boldly declare that we shall never forget."
Union City Veterans Affairs Monitor John McMahon was also present. In a post-ceremony telephone interview, he said, "This is done to honor those that are missing. It's also for their families. It's a remembrance. The families of the POWs and MIAs have never had any closure."
According to McMahon, there have been some positive movements in the search for POWs and MIAs. Several months ago, according to McMahon, $10 million was given to the government of South Korea to help search for POWs and MIAs.
Said McMahon, "They're still out there. It's just a matter of finding them."
United States Marine Sgt. Erick Bruno, who works out of the Union City United States Marines Recruiting Center at 4808 Bergenline Ave., said of his experience at the ceremony, "It was really motivating and I was honored to take part in it as a Marine. It means a lot to me. We should definitely keep searching for these people."
Bruno's commander, Gunnery Sergeant Fabian Jimenez said, "It's a day for us to remember all those people who sacrificed for our country."