Prisoner of War and Missing in Action (POW/MIA)
POW/MIA Bracelet History
History of the POW/MIA Flag
History of the POW/MIA Recognition Days
History of the POW/MIA (Missing Man) Table
Thirty-five years ago, the first POW/MIA bracelet was introduced to the public on Veterans Day, November 11, 1970 in Washington DC. Now years later, bracelets are being rediscovered in jewelry boxes and various home storage areas.
Not everyone knows the fate of their veteran nor have they contemplated whether to return the bracelets or keep them as a symbol of their commitment to the support of our troops.
One phenomenon that took place in the 2008 Presidential elections was the amount of John McCain POW bracelets being hawked on Ebay. I actually witnessed bidding commencing in the double digits
with one selling for over a $1,000.00. This was not the initial concept these bracelets were created. Honoring a POW/MIA
veteran has more meaning that an attached dollar sign. If I see these original bracelets being abused, I will buy them.
Eventually I leave them at a Moving Wall event so they are honored at the respectable, designated Moving Wall museum site.
Various web sites tell the history of the bracelets as explained in great detail by Carol Bates Brown:
Back in April 2009, I received an email asking where replacement Recognition bracelets could be purchased. I had no idea since
I actually had never seen or heard of this sort of bracelet. I asked Carol Szul for more information. She wrote back that she
had purchased it in Washington DC from a kiosk near the memorial a few years ago. Looking at the bracelet, it just reminded
me of the original VIVA bracelets. I thought of Liz Flick, Ohio Chapter MIA/POW and gave Carol the information to contact Liz.
Yesterday, I heard from Carol and she had just received her replacement bracelet. Carol was thrilled and wanted everyone to
know how responsive Liz was to her request.
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In 1997, bills passed the House and Senate mandating the POW/MIA flag will be flown on specific holidays.
The 1998 Defense Authorization act noted that the flag must be flown on:
Memorial Day, Armed Forces Day, Flag Day, Veterans Day, Independence Day, POW/MIA Recognition Day.
In 1998, the Veterans Administration noted the flag would fly EVERY day at their facilities.
It must be predominately displayed at:
The White House, the U.S. Capitol, the Departments of State, Defense and Veterans Affairs, headquarters of the Selective Service System, major military installations as designated by the Secretary of the Defense, all Federal cemeteries and all offices of the U.S. Postal Service.
By the law passed in 2002, it must fly year-round at:
The National Vietnam Veterans Memorial, the Korean War Veterans Memorial and the World War II Memorial.
Various web sites explain in great detail the history of the POW/MIA flag.
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No commemorations for honoring America’s POW/MIA's were held before July 18, 1979.
National ceremonies for POW/MIA Recognition Day are presented throughout the nation’s military installations as well as city and state memorials, government institutions, ships, schools, churches, police and fire stations and around the world. It has always been the foremost statement that the focus is to ensure that America remembers its responsibility to stand behind those who serve our nation and do everything possible to account for those who do not return.
The original date was routinely set to coincide with the yearly convention of the National League of Families of POW/MIAs in Southeast Asia. However the American Ex-POWs felt that the date of April 9th was better served since it represented the day during World War II when the largest number of Americans were captured. To accommodate all returned POWs and all Americans still missing and unaccounted for from all wars, the National League of Families later proposed to set the date of the third Friday in September. This way it would not be associated with any particular war nor in conjunction with any organization's national convention.
Deemed by Congress after 1995, National POW/MIA Recognition Day legislation is introduced yearly but no longer is proclaimed by Congress. Therefore it is the President who each year continues to sign the special proclamation.
Various web sites explain in great detail the history of POW/MIA Recognition Day.
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There is nothing more poignant than witnessing the empty chair sitting at a POW/MIA table with incredible significance for every displayed feature of this ritual. Witnessing the ceremony
that accompanies this memorable event brings more than just a simple emotion. There are numerous websites that describes the ceremony and the various procedures within the event
but the origin of the "Missing Man" POW/MIA ceremony is documented mostly by word of mouth. However, through research I now have 2 variations of how the ceremony developed.
Margot Theis Raven, "America's White Table" explains " I wish I could tell you tons of info about how the table originated, but the facts are a bit sketchy, unfortunately.
I covered most of what I know in the author's note in my book America's White Table. To get my facts, I contacted the Air Force Historian's office when working on the book and
was told that the River Rats began the tradition before the Vietnam War was over (set at their practice reunions when the men were still overseas). When the war ended, the MIA/POW table tradition
of remembering missing and fallen comrades traveled back State-side with the returning veterans and eventually became a part of dining-in and dining out services of all military branches, really by a
gradual "roll-out," rather than any kind of dictated order. It was evolutionary rather than revolutionary."
"As to whose idea is was originally --I have no clear-cut idea. I couldn't find that fact when interviewing various Rats...just kind of happened is what I learned, but certainly the three "founding fathers"
of the Rats deserve much of the credit for the organizations earliest practices and traditions."
Contacting former POW Paul Galanti, he introduced me to former POW Tom Hanton who graciously shared with me "that the three founding fathers of the Red River Valley Fighter Pilots Association
were: Col "Scrappy" Johnson, Col Larry Pickett and Col Robin Olds."
I certainly would be honored to post the historical facts of The POW/MIA (Missing Man) Table Ceremony and you have my
permission without reservation. Lawrence H. Tassone, 4January2009
In late 1979, as the Chairman of the Programs Committee of Air Force Sergeants Assoc. (AFSA) Chap 1379, San Jose, CA, I
convinced my fellow members to volunteer to host the 1980 AFSA Division 13 (State of California) convention in San Jose.
In December 1979, unexpectedly, I accepted the position as Western Regional Director of the AFSA and commenced employment
on 2 January 1980. This took me somewhat out of the loop for planning the program for the events, but I offered to assist
In mid-January 1980 one of the Chap 1380 officer's asked me to assist with opening ceremonies. They wanted to do something to
recognize our Association's POW/MIA's at an appropriate time. After spending a little time pondering the situation I recommended
we hold a brief solemn ceremony right after the opening invocation and flag posting so as not to quell the later more festive
activities planned over a 3-day period. After that was agreed to I sat down one evening and began to put my thoughts on paper.
Somewhere I still have I'm sure the original script for that event since I was asked so often for copies in the years subsequent.
I have seen it performed in a wide variety of roles, and even have one on DVD created by the former commandant of the Enlisted
Heritage Hall at Gunter AFB, GA. On occasion I receive a phone call from someone (friend, relative or acquaintenace) who has
just attended the ceremony done using the original script and will see an acknowledgement at the bottom of a program card
indicating my authorship and remember having met me either as the Western Field Director or later as the Director of Education
and Foundation Affairs for AFSA or as the Assist to the Executive Director of AFSA over the 23 years I served on staff.
As the author of all the scripts used at AFSA conventions from 1981-2003, this ceremony was performed numerous times at AFSA's
convention and hence thousands became aware of its existence.
To clarify, I do this primarily to ensure that the facts are known correctly for historical purposes and I assure you I seek
no remuneration or recognition only that you add this footnote to your office files should the question ever arise. If there
are questions/comments I may be reached at:
MSgt Lawrence H. Tassone, USAF (Ret)
53 Emily's Pintail Dr
Bridgeville, DE 19933
301-932-8250 // 301-693-1723 (Cell) firstname.lastname@example.org
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