National POW/MIA Recognition Day is September 21, 2018. On this day we not only fly the U.S. flag, we also fly the POW/MIA flag to honor and remember those heroes who were killed or have gone missing in action during wartime. Fly your POW/MIA flag alone or underneath a larger U.S. flag on the same staff for a meaningful display of recognition on POW recognition day.
What is POW/MIA?
POW/MIA is an acronym for Prisoners of War/Missing in Action. During the Vietnam War (November 1, 1955 – April 30, 1975), the term was used to refer to the issue of those reported missing in action or held prisoner during wartime. After the Paris Peace Accords of 1973, hundreds of POWs were returned home to the U.S. However, more than 2,500 unaccounted-for soldiers remained “missing in action”, many of whom were shot down Airmen whose remains were unrecoverable.
The National League of POW/MIA Families, a nonprofit group of activists and families affected by the POW/MIA issue, formed to advocate for the cause. During and after the Vietnam War, the League of POW/MIA Families has played a significant role in pressing the U.S. government to improve recovery efforts of those soldiers still missing in action. As of August 29, 2018, there are still 1,594 Americans missing and unaccounted-for from the Vietnam War. The League of POW/MIA Families continues to seek the “fullest possible accounting for those still missing and reparation of all recoverable remains.”
The POW/MIA Flag and POW/MIA Day
The history of the POW/MIA flag dates to 1970 when Mary Hoff of Orange Park, Florida asked Annin Flagmakers to help her create a flag to honor her husband, Navy Lieutenant Commander Michael Hoff, who had been shot down while in flight during the Vietnam War. Since Hoff did not have her husband's remains for a proper burial, she wanted a meaningful way to mark her husband’s passing and commemorate him at home. As a member of the National League of POW/MIA Families, she also recognized the need for a symbol to recognize all the prisoners of war and those missing in action during the Vietnam War.
Although the POW/MIA flag was created for the National League of POW/MIA families, it gained widespread appeal as national attention and concern continued to grow around the Vietnam POW/MIA issue. In 1979, Congress and the president proclaimed the first National POW/MIA Recognition Day to acknowledge the POW/MIA issue and to symbolize the resolve of the American people to never forget those who gave up their freedom to protect ours. The POW/MIA flag made history in 1982 as it became the first flag other than the Stars and Stripes to fly over the White House.
In 1990, Congress passed U.S. Public Law 101-355, designating the POW/MIA flag:
“The symbol of our Nation's concern and commitment to resolving as fully as possible the fates of Americans still prisoner, missing and unaccounted for in Southeast Asia, thus ending the uncertainty for their families and the Nation."
5 Ways to Participate in POW/MIA Recognition Day 2018
America has officially recognized National POW/MIA Day since 1998 when the National Defense Authorization Act mandated that federal buildings fly the flag on Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day, National POW/MIA Recognition Day, and Veterans Day.
The National League of POW/MIA families suggests many ways to recognize and support the ongoing efforts around the POW/MIA issue. Here are five ways you can participate as a concerned and supportive citizen.
- Fly the POW/MIA flag at home or at your place of business from sunrise to sunset on September 21, 2018.
- Encourage flying of the POW/MIA flag at your local state and government buildings. If you see the flag being flown, thank the responsible senior official (governor, mayor, etc.). Contact fire and police departments, schools, and local businesses requesting display of the POW/MIA flag at all appropriate locations.
- Write Congress asking them to ensure that adequate funding and personnel are provided each fiscal year to underwrite operational requirements necessary to sustain a high level of effort on accounting for US personnel still missing from past wars.
- Hold or attend a POW/MIA vigil near you.
- Distribute POW/MIA flyers available from the National League’s website.