This slogan was echoed by candlelight last Friday evening by members of the 32nd chapter of the Vietnam Veterans of America, during a somber ceremony honoring the POWs and MIAs — prisoners of war and missing-in-action soldiers - who never returned home from the war.
There are nearly 155,000 prisoners of war still unaccounted for dating all the way back from World War II to the present. This annual ceremony, held on the third Friday of every September, honors those still missing.
The annual candlelight vigil took place in Maspeth Memorial Square at the corner of 69th Street and Grand Avenue under a clear night sky. A table was set near the speaker’s podium with an empty place setting, an empty chair, and an inverted glass, symbolizing the conspicuous absence of the servicemen still missing to this day.
“Some people call them MIAs and POWs; we call them our brothers and sisters,” said one officer during the service.
Following the entrance of the Honor Guard and a few introductory words, members of the veterans' group read aloud the names of servicemen from the area who are still missing. Between each name, a bell was tolled, and a flickering electric candle was lit to represent each missing person. At the end of the ceremony, an officer played “Taps” on the trumpet.
“Until they are all home, we will continue to hold this ceremony, and we will continue to hope for peace,” said Pat Toro, Jr., president of the 32nd Chapter.
Present at the ceremony were State Senator Joe Addabbo, Congresswoman Elizabeth Crowley, and Assemblywoman Margaret Markey.
“This was very moving and very respectful,” remarked Markey, following the service.
The Vietnam Veterans of America is a not-for-profit organization that has been chartered by Congress for over 30 years. Chapter 32 is currently hard at work on a Vietnam War Memorial, soon to be unveiled in Maspeth.