Saturday, September 18, 2010

POWs/MIAs Honored, Remembered at NAS Whidbey Island

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nardel Gervacio, Navy Public Affairs Support Element, Detachment Northwest

OAK HARBOR, Wash. (NNS) -- Naval Air Station Whidbey Island hosted a Prisoner of War/Missing in Action (POW/MIA) Recognition Day ceremony at the POW/MIA Sentinel Memorial on the Seaplane Base, Sept. 17.

National POW/MIA Recognition Day honors the courage of those who were held as prisoners of war in foreign conflicts and ensures those who remain missing in action are never forgotten.

Lt. Cmdr. Brian Danielson, of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 129, who expatriated his father Capt. Ben Danielson's remains from Laos and laid him to rest June 15, 2007 spoke to the crowd of more than 200.

During his speech, Danielson began by reading the POW's code of conduct, "Words that tend to be forgotten after basic training but is always refreshed and re-enforced throughout a service member's career."

Danielson continued his speech and said "The honoring of POW/MIA's and the importance of returning them all home exist as a reminder of the great importance that our country place on the value of a human life."

"I think it's always important to remember service members who served before us and never came home, in my situation I've been friends with Lt. Cmdr. Danielson a long time and followed his family's journey," said Cmdr. Lee Jackson, commanding officer, VAQ-129. "It's hard to hold back emotions with ceremonies like this."

Also mentioned at the ceremony was the return of the remains of U.S. Navy Capt. Michael Scott Speicher. Speicher was shot down in an F/A-18 Hornet on the first night of Operation Desert Storm, Jan. 16, 1991, approximately 100 miles west of Baghdad, Iraq. On Aug. 13, 2009, at 3 p.m., Speicher's remains arrived in NAS Jacksonville, Fla., and he was laid to rest at the Jacksonville Memory Gardens.

The names of 57 repatriated remains from this year were read by Jackson.

"The ceremony was very moving, how they read the names, thought that it was very nice. These type of ceremonies is so important because a lot of people don't think about it very much," said Boatswain's Mate 2nd Class (SW) Christopher Robarts of Tampa, Fla., assigned to VAQ-129. "People take this country and freedom for granted. When the names were read of the service members still missing in action, I was unaware of it and I believe so many others don't know also, so many families still do not have closure and it's sad."

The raising of the POW/MIA flag, a 21-gun salute by the NAS Whidbey Island honor guard and music played by the Oak Harbor High School Band marked the conclusion of the ceremony, which ended with a fly-by by VAQ-129.

"It was a very nice ceremony; it's good to know that we still remember the Prisoner of War/Missing in Action and all the men and women who gave their lives for this country, it's an honor to be part of this event," said Lance Cpl. Arturo Ibanez Jr., of Corsicana, Texas, assigned to Marine Aviation Training Support Group (MATSG) 53.

In conjunction with the event, a motorcycle ride and rally was held in honor of the day and featured 250 riders from around Northwestern Washington. A supporter of and contributor to the day's activities, VAQ-134 grilled burgers and provided food, drinks, and music, as well.

"The ceremony was very moving, it was an honor to come here and show my support, POW/MIA Day to me means that my country will not forget our service members," said David Brown of Marion, Iowa, an honorary member of Star Touring and Riding Chapter 154 Northwest Cascades. "I feel this ceremony today honors those and the family who are still waiting for some type of closure."