The third Friday of September is designated to recognize the sacrifices made by prisoners of war while in US military service, and those who remain missing in action. Stephen Leopold of Milwaukee was captured in May of 1968 in Vietnam and eventually released in March of 1973. “I was an MIA. For all four years, ten months and 23 days that I was in prison my parents, and luckily I wasn’t married, but my parents were never ever told that I was alive.”
At a ceremony at the state Veterans Museum in Madison, Wisconsin Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Ken Black says it’s important not to forget the hundreds of thousands of US service men and women across the globe who are currently in harm’s way, in danger of themselves becoming POWs or MIAs. “Some POWs are beaten, isolated, and every effort is made to break their spirits and sever the bonds between families and friends at home. It’s very difficult to imagine what it would be like, how it would feel to realize you’re separated from others and at the mercy of the enemy.”
Nearly 90,000 American service members are still listed as missing in action. Black says even for those who do come home, the passage of time does not heal the pain of captivity.
National POW-MIA Recognition Day is also being observed on September 17, 2010.