HAMILTON TOWNSHIP —- Local veterans gathered Friday night to demonstrate missing in action does not mean forgotten.
The local chapters of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Vietnam Veterans of America sponsored a service to remember the tens of thousands of American military personnel who "have not yet returned home."
National POW/MIA Recognition Day, which was first observed in 1979, occurs annually across the country on the third Friday of September.
More than 83,000 Americans are missing from World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War, the Vietnam War and the 1991 Gulf War, according to the U.S. Department of Defense's Prisoner of War Missing Personnel Office. The number of missing personnel from the recent Iraq war is six, the department states.
A few dozen residents and veterans gathered at Gaskill Park on Friday night for a ceremony in honor of those classified as POW/MIA. Forty seven American flags were placed on the ground next to a POW/MIA statue in honor of the 47 state veterans with this classification. Their names were also read aloud during the ceremony.
"We need to keep pressure on federal government to keep investigating these issues," said Atlantic County Freeholder John Risley. "It's important."
Bob McNulty, president of the Vietnam Veterans of America Post 825 in Mays Landing, said the event was started in 1999 by Egg Harbor Township resident Don Souder who also started the event in Somers Point a few years ago.
"No one in the county had done anything for POW/MIA," McNulty, a resident of Egg Harbor Township and veteran of the U.S. Navy said. "We want to keep them in front of the American public."
Russell Robinson, commander of the Atlantic County American Legion, said he has a kinship with those who were killed in Vietnam where he served as a member of the U.S. Army.
"I feel we need to get them back," the Pleasantville resident said.
Mays Landing resident Henry Lisitski, a member of the Boy Scout Troop CC of Mays Landing, which volunteered during the event, said it was unnerving to see all the flags representing state veterans who are still missing and he feels sympathy for their families.
"You are pretty much living day by day in doubt waiting to find out if their loved one is OK and what happened to them," the 15 year old said.
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