The POW and MIA flag flies high above us on a daily basis. We see the letters and the silhouette of an unknown soldier’s face, but do we, the newer generations of America, understand its significance and the symbolism behind the flag? This flag was created to represent hope for the families whose loved one never returned home from the war.
The world was a chaotic place during the Vietnam War. More specifically in the Eastern Asian region of the world. Over the course of almost 11 years, from Aug. 5, 1964 – May 7, 1975, 2,709,918 American soldiers actively fought in Vietnam. By the time the troops were withdrawn, there were many soldiers who returned home wounded or died on the battlefield. But there were also soldiers left in Vietnam. The prisoners of war (POW) and those who were missing in action (MIA) became the forgotten ones, the people who had served their country but never returned home, whose families never received confirmation of whether their loved one was still alive, or deceased.
In 1971, the wife of an MIA soldier, Mrs. Michael Hoff, realized the need for families to have a symbol for the POW and MIA soldiers. The same families who worried day in and day out about their loved one who never returned home to them. She contacted the vice president of Annin & Company, a major flag manufacturer and distributor, who shared her concern and agreed to create a flag for the missing soldiers. The result was a black flag with a soldier’s silhouette in the center and the words “You Are Not Forgotten” quoted in bold letters at the bottom.
This flag was flown over the White House and at the U.S. Capitol Rotunda, indicating the importance of the issue to the American government, as well as the American people. The flag symbolizes the commitment the missing soldiers have made to maintaining our freedom, and the commitment we have made in return to never relent in our search for them.
It is true that we may never find the soldiers we are searching for, the answers we are seeking. But we must never stop searching. We must never give up hope, because as the POW/MIA flag continues to fly high above our heads, day after day, we remind those soldiers that they matter to us, that they are not forgotten.
–The writer is a senior at Forest Lake High School and the winner of a Vietnam Veterans Memorial Scholarship given in memory of Tom Tuccitto, a former Scandia resident who served in Vietnam as a sergeant in Alpha Company. Angelo read the essay Sunday during the annual Vietnam Veterans Day program, where the scholarship was awarded by Tuccitto’s wife, Pat.