BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — All around the country this week, culminating on Friday, communities are honoring war veterans from two especially meaningful categories – POWs and MIAs – prisoners of war and missing in action.
Today, an estimated 82,000 service members remain unaccounted for, from conflicts dating back to World War II, including 124 from Kern County.
Edwards Air Force Base held a POW-MIA commemoration early Friday morning and Friday evening. The Greenlawn Funeral Home and Memorial Park held a ceremony featuring local dignitaries and veterans. Also among the remembrances was one at Portrait of a Warrior Gallery in downtown Bakersfield.
The focus of that event, the MIA – missing in action.
“The war fighter who we weren’t able to fully account for,” Price said. “The war fighter whose absence denies us, denies them, one of the most basic of pledges we as a people make to those who serve. Bring them all home. One way or another, bring them all home.”
A half dozen local veterans read aloud the names of those 124 Kern County MIAs. Wayne Wright gave a dozen of those names, including that of his older brother.
“Allen Wright, U.S. Army,” he said. “My brother.”
Allen Wright, missing since 1950, has not been seen alive since the first months of the Korean War.
The U.S. Army has a good idea of a two-mile stretch where he could be buried,” Wayne Wright said.
Confirmed death at least has certainty, and organizations like Portrait of a Warrior honor that ultimate sacrifice as they should. But of all those veterans who are honored – the ones who come back, the ones lost on the field of battle, the ones whose return was delayed, interrupted, by captivity – it is the MIA who strikes an especially heart-rending chord.
The message here: Missing is not synonymous with forgotten. Absent does not equal anonymous. And on days like Friday, organizations like Portrait of a Warrior try to make sure it never does.