The third Friday in September each year is set aside as National POW/MIA Recognition Day. This year it will be observed on Friday, September 18. This is a day to recognize and remember the sacrifices of prisoners of war (POW) and service members who are missing in action (MIA). National POW/MIA Recognition Day was first observed in 1979.
The POW/MIA flag, which is highly recognizable today, actually predates the day of observance. The flag is said to have been requested by a military spouse, Mary Hoff, in 1971. The iconic design was created by a World War II pilot named, Newt Heisley. Hoff’s original request was for a flag to honor those prisoners of war and missing in action, one of whom was her own husband.
The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) states that there are more than 83,000 service members missing from conflicts between World War II and the present day. The majority of those missing members are from WWII, numbering around 73,000. There are approximately 7,000 missing from the Korean War, and around 1,600 from the Vietnam War. The Cold War has 126 missing members, and there are six missing from conflicts since 1991.
The DPAA has a mission to find, identify, and bring home each one of the missing service members from around the world. The National POW/MIA Recognition Day is just one part of what they do, but it is an important part. Recognizing and remembering the sacrifices made by those service members reminds people of the cost of freedom, and keeps their memories alive.