This Friday’s Bartholomew County Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Recognition Day ceremony may seem similar to the annual Veteran’s Day or Memorial Day ceremonies.
The difference, however, is likely to be in the thoughts and emotions of people attending who may not know — and never know — what happened to a loved one that was declared missing in action.
In several cases, family members unable to achieve closure will refuse to accept a loved one is dead, even if that person has been missing for decades, said event coordinator Bob Miller, a Vietnam veteran and native of Cleveland who moved to Columbus nine years ago.
“I cannot imagine the moment my government couldn’t tell me if my brother or sister was alive or dead,” said William “Buzz” Weberding of Batesville, Veteran of Foreign Wars state commander and keynote speaker. “And I cannot imagine my grief if that missing person was my son or daughter.”
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This year’s POW/MIA recognition ceremony will get underway at 6:30 p.m. at the Bartholomew County Memorial for Veterans, on the southwest portion of the Bartholomew County Courthouse grounds.
During last year’s event, the names of 45 local individuals who were either prisoners of war that remain unaccounted for — or declared missing in action — were read.
But Miller said that’s not an accurate number.
“It’s very difficult to determine,” he said. “They keep track of those unaccounted for, but as far as prisoners of war who came home, the records are not quite as good.”
Miller said a more up-to-date estimate, based on his recent research, is 54 names — 40 of which are named on bricks at the POW/MIA plaza, six others mentioned during a Memorial Day program and the names of eight individuals that he has uncovered.
All 54 of those names will be read during Friday’s program.
Miller said he will continue working with county historian Harry McCawley, the recently created Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency and others to identify missing service members from past military conflicts.
Through the agency’s efforts, the remains of one Hoosier, Robert L. McIntosh, were identified and returned to his family in Tipton last month — 72 years after the 21-year-old Army pilot was reported missing in action in Italy.
“’You are not forgotten’ is not a slogan. It’s a mission,” Miller said.
Besides Weberding, others returning from last year’s observance include master of ceremonies Zack Ellison, vocalist Harvey Leggett and the Southern Indiana Pipes and Drums.
A 21-gun salute by the Bartholomew County Veterans Honor Guard will close out the event.
In case of inclement weather, the ceremony will be held in the Cal Brand meeting room on the first floor of Columbus City Hall.
Unaccounted U.S. military personnel
World War II (1941-1945): 73,126
Korean War (1950-1953): 7,802
Vietnam War (1955-1975): 1,618
Cold War (1947-1991): 126
Iraq and other recent conflicts (1991-present): 6
Source: Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency
What: Bartholomew County POW/MIA Recognition Day ceremony, supported by VFW Post 1987, American Legion Post 24 and AMVETS Post 509
When: 6:30 p.m. Friday
Where: Bartholomew County Memorial for Veterans
Rain location: Cal Brand meeting room at Columbus City Hall, 123 Washington St.
The names of these service members will be read during Friday’s POW/MIA Recognition Day Ceremony in Columbus, with the time after each name indicating the length of time as a prisoner of war.
WORLD WAR II PRISONERS OF WAR
Kenneth L. Allison, 2 months
Ralph Blair, 27 months
Harry Boegaholz Jr., 16 months
Virgil E. Brown, 7 months
J. Thomas Bunch, 19 months
John E. Clements, 8 months
Melvin Collis, 15 months
Eunice J. Conrad, 8 months
Lee D. Crabtree, 21 months
Arthur L. Fleetwood, 9 months
James L. Gordon, 5 months
Robert H. Green, 20 months
John C. Guthrie, 8 months
James A. Hall, 15 months
John E. Hamilton, 6 months
Wayne D. Hickman, 4 months
Robert E. Hogan, 12 months
Wilbur L. Horn, 5 months
Floyd E. Huntsman, 5 months
Luther D. Johnson, 7 months
W. Deryl Johnson, 8 months
Cecil Key, 18 months
Basil R. King, 5 months
Donald Klipsch, 28 months
Charles H. Leslie, 11 months
Ralph Lynn, 4 months
William Hurley Miller, 7 months
John Molzer, 5 months
Laverne Jack Moore, 5 months
Walter H. Oyer, 10 months
Marshall E. Patterson, 26 months
Ray W. Patterson, 40 months
Gustav Potthoff, 42 months
Lawrence C. Powell, 5 months
Richard Regan, POW-Killed in action
Eugene Rogers, 46 months
Frank Sachleben, POW-Killed in action
Bill Schonfeld, 11 months
Raymond Shown, 4 months
Sherman Skaggs, 27 months
Charles J. Steenbarger, 27 months
H. Robert Swartwood, 21 months
Richard Thayer, 12 months
Morris H. Thomas, 14 months
Jack Trowbridge, 20 months
George Wall, 16 months
Roy Weibel, 37 months
William J. Weisner, 9 months
KOREAN WAR PRISONERS OF WAR/MISSING IN ACTION
Forrest Burns, Killed in Action
Robert Hilycord, 16 months
Robert Langwell, MIA-Remains Recovered
Robert E. Miller, died in captivity
Virgil Phillips, MIA-Remains Recovered
VIETNAM WAR MISSING IN ACTION
Charles Dennis Chomel, MIA-Remains Not Recovered.