By Nick Miller
The Scott POW/MIA Council held its 27th annual recognition ceremony Saturday morning, honoring those that had been captured during service or are still missing.
According to Geof Bambic of the POW/MIA Council, 82,232 Americans are still listed as Missing in Action as of September 14, 2018. Bambec went on to thank the assembled veterans, including some POW’s and the families of POW’s that were present.
“You sirs are true examples for our armed forces. Every American ones their freedom to all of you, and for that we would like to say thank you from the bottom of our hearts,” Bambic said to the small assembled group of former prisoners of war.
Illinois Lt. Governor Evelyn Sanguinetti served as the guest speaker and began by saying what an honor it was for to be present at the event.
“On behalf of Governor Bruce Rauner and myself, we made it a priority to be here today for this ceremony,” Sanguinetti said. “From the shores of Normandy, to the jungles of Vietnam. From the mountains of Korea to the Persian Gulf, tens of thousands of American soldiers have experienced capture or disappearance. Tremendous efforts have been made, dedicated to finding our lost brothers and sisters. Over decades there have been successes, but I think this morning we recognize that this fight, is not even close to being over,”
Sanguinetti said that while its important to remember and focus on returning all 82,232 missing Americans, she wanted to highlight another number.
“Here is another number I want you all to remember. Four thousand, one hundred and seventy seven. This is the number of Illinoisians that remain unaccounted for since World War II. Behind each of these figures are countless stories of stories left patiently waiting for the return of their loved ones,” Sanguinetti said.
Bambec explained how the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) works to locate and identify remains so missing soldiers can be confirmed as found and returned home.
Sanguinetti said DNA testing has assisted greatly in identifying the remains of those who had been previously lost. Bambec echoed that statement, revealing how many formerly missing soldiers had been found since last year’s ceremony.
“Since last year’s ceremony, the DPAA has discovered, identified, and returned 181 of America’s finest,” Bambec said. “Of those identified, 138 were from World War II, 25 were from the Korean War, and eight were from the Vietnam War,” Bambec said.
Sanguinetti said that her family’s history reminds her constantly why it is important to fight for freedom and remember and honor those who have fallen or been lost doing so on your behalf.
“This all makes me reflect and think about my family. As a Latina, my family is comprised of immigrants and refugees. My mother was a refugee from Fidel Castro’s Cuba. My mother never failed to tell me each and every day how much freedom means. She told me how Fidel Castro was very charming and at the beginning he came on the island and said ‘You can trust me and give me your ability to defend yourselves’ and they did that. But then next came liberties and properties, because freedom isn’t free,” said Sanguinetti.
The O’Fallon Township High School Junior Air Force ROTC posted the colors and performed the POW/MIA table ceremony, where a table for one is set with many symbolic items.
A 21-gun salute was conducted by the Polish American War Veterans based out of Caseyville, Illinois.
The annual event was hosted and held at VFW Post #805. Following the ceremony, attendees were invited to stay for a complementary barbecue lunch.