‘You are not forgotten’

Published 10:14 pm Friday, September 20, 2019

The Veterans of Foreign Wars Department of Virginia recognized those Virginians who remain unaccounted for in all wars by dedicating a new monument at Albert G. Horton Jr. Memorial Veterans Cemetery on Friday.

This ceremony was held on Friday for National POW/MIA Recognition Day, which is observed on the third Friday in September to honor those who were prisoners of war and those who are still missing in action.

The black granite Chair of Honor that was unveiled and dedicated reads “this unoccupied seat is dedicated to the memory of the brave men and women of Virginia who are unaccounted for, from all wars,” followed by an earnest and everlasting proclamation: “you are not forgotten.”

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“The purpose of this monument is to give us focus,” VFW National Surgeon General Dr. Curtis “Doc” Bohlman said in his remarks. “To focus our thoughts on our comrades who have given so much, and remind us to say ‘you are not forgotten’ to our prisoners of war, those still missing in action and their families, many of whom still seek closure.”

The Chair of Honor was made possible by contributions from VFW Department of Virginia District 2, VFW Post Auxiliaries and the VFW Riders Virginia, according to Michael Chism, POW/MIA committee chair for the Department of Virginia.

“Congratulations are in order to all who contributed and worked so hard that this monument might be constructed,” Bohlman said.

VFW Department of Virginia District 2 Posts were represented at the ceremony, which was also attended by Suffolk City Council members, as well as friends and family.

The posting of VFW and branches of service flags was done in absolute silence that was punctuated only by careful footsteps, commands for direction and chirps of birds in trees throughout the cemetery.

“I’m really happy to see this turnout,” VFW Virginia State Commander Rick Raskin said in his remarks. “It speaks well for the community in the Suffolk area, and for the dedication that you have toward our veterans and our missing in action.”

There are more than 82,000 Americans listed as missing or unaccounted for from U.S. wars going back to the beginning of World War II, according to James Evans, commander of VFW Department of Virginia District 2.

“That’s more than 82,000 military and civilian men and women. Mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, sons and daughters,” Evans said to the Friday gathering.

It’s also important to remember the loss that’s still felt by the friends and family of these missing military men and women, he said.

“It is true that the costs of war extend far beyond the last shots being fired, but for missing in action families, the passage of time does not heal their wounds,” he said. “For them the days become weeks, the weeks become months, then years, and now sadly decades.

“I cannot imagine the loss I would feel if my mother or father went off to war and didn’t return,” he continued. “I cannot imagine reliving the moment the government couldn’t tell me if my brother or sister is alive or dead. I cannot imagine any emotions if that missing person was my son or daughter.”

The Nansemond River High School Air Force JROTC cadets performed the Missing Man Table ceremony for the proceedings. Each facet of this table’s symbolism was read aloud, and each reading was marked by a sharp ring of the bell.

“One thing I know for sure is that it means a lot to us today,” State Commander Raskin said about the Missing Man Table, “but it may not mean so much in the future, because as time goes on people tend to forget. But that memorial that we’re dedicating out there today will be there a lot longer than any of these tables will remain, and it will always keep us remembering what we need to remember — that we don’t forget our MIA and POWs.”