MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, CALIF. -- The annual POW/MIA Recognition Day Ceremony was held in the Cultural Resources Center, Sept. 18. The purpose of the event was to honor and remember the sacrifices of prisoners of war and the families of service members missing in action.
After the entrance of the official party, posting of the colors, National Anthem and invocation, five members of the Total Force Blue Eagles Honor Guard conducted the highly symbolic table ceremony that recognizes the sacrifices of service members.
As the narrator, Master Sgt. William Griffey, explained the meaning of the items on the table, the honor guard members simultaneously lifted the glasses of the five place settings that represented the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force and Coast Guard.
They turned the glasses right side up and set them down at the table as Sergeant Griffey read, "The glasses are inverted, signifying those who cannot be here. However, in remembrance of them, we place their glasses upright, as they are here with us in spirit."
A member of the honor guard then lit a candle to represent vigilance for those still missing.
After the table ceremony, Major Gen. Roger L. Brautigan, the acting Secretary of the California Department of Veterans Affairs (CalVet), delivered a speech. General Brautigan is a 33-year veteran of the U.S. Army where he was most recently the commanding general and chief of staff, I Corps at Fort Lewis in Washington state.
General Brautigan brought greetings from Governor Schwarzenegger, reminding the audience that the governor himself is a veteran, having served as a tanker in the Austrian Army.
"He [Governor Schwarzenegger] has the greatest respect for the men and women in uniform and their families serving today, for veterans and their families, and for former prisoners of war and the families of those missing in action," General Brautigan said.
There were three former prisoners of war in the audience, as well as several widows of former prisoners of war.
"Our former POWs and MIAs here today know just how cruel and devastating and horrific war is," General Brautigan said. "Those who have witnessed and who have tasted the sting of battle have not only a great appreciation of freedom, but also of peace."
General Brautigan recited the number of POWs and MIAs in each of the major conflicts since World War I. He also noted that there have been over 10 recoveries of MIA remains so far this year.
The ceremony concluded with the presentation of a wreath, the firing of three volleys, and the playing of taps.