Honoring Our Veterans On National POW-MIA Recognition Day

LUZERNE COUNTY -- As the Star Spangled Banner was sung, a flag was flown at half-staff.

This solemn gathering in Luzerne County's Back Mountain was to remember those gone missing in action or taken prisoner during war.

The ceremony at the Back Mountain Harvest Assembly Church was held to remind the community those war veterans will never be forgotten.

Many in the audience were war veterans themselves.

“I've had lots and lots of family members that have served in multiple conflicts, including myself and ongoing generations,” said Dave Cubo, a Gulf War veteran.

This site was built on the church's property in Trucksville and dedicated to POW’s and those missing in action.

September 16th is the National POW-MIA Recognition Day.

“There`s 82,000 POW-MIA's since World War Two. Thirty-nine of those POW are from Lackawanna and Luzerne Counties, and we really wanted to make a portion of our campus a place of healing,” said Pastor Raymond Petts.

A fire was lit at the memorial site, burning from dusk to dawn, as a table with an empty chair was placed in one corner, signifying a veteran who never came home.

Fred Searles, a Korean War veteran, was a prisoner of war, held in North Korean from 1950 to 1953.

“To me, it means that the people are actually showing appreciation from here. It's not just words... it's deeds. It really, really shakes me up,” said Searles.

Lackawanna County Judge Thomas Munley, a Vietnam veteran, was the keynote speaker.

“I was in Vietnam in the infantry, and I remember we used to say to ourselves don't ever, if we ever get captured, we'll probably never come back alive... so I think about these guys all the time,” said Hon. Munley.

“Makes me feel so damn good that I know that people really appreciate us by showing it,” said Searles.

12 comments

  • Rose Mary Stone

    The Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) was finally disbanded after an avalanche of scandals were exposed by NBC, CBS, Fox News, NPR, the AP, and Stars and Stripes. Multiple government investigations then found gross mismanagement and a total lack of leadership. The American public and families of our lost heroes channeled their anger, frustration, humiliation, and feelings of betrayal to demand the immediate removal of those responsible for what the the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, testified was “Disgraceful”.

    A “new” Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA) was created to replace the scandal plagued JPAC. Sadly, the government’s idea of the massive reform necessary was a superficial name change of the organization and re-shuffling the same poor executives and laboratory managers to new desks and titles in a brand new $85 million dollar building in Hawaii. Before quitting in less than a year, the new director of DPAA discovered that the DPAA lab was just as inept in a new building as they were in the previous facility and DPAA began depending on the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory in Delaware for identifications.

    In 2015, the DPAA lab produced a grand total of 70 identifications at a gross cost of almost $2 million per identification! This was a whooping one more identification than JPAC’s proven dysfunctional system produced the previous year! Five identifications in 2015 were from remains discovered by a private group at a construction site . Another identification was the result of a family filing a Federal lawsuit to force DPAA’s management to act after JPAC’s own investigation matched the missing serviceman’s identity with a precise burial location! But half of the 70 identifications were from remains turned over by North Korea in 1991 that had been sitting on the JPAC/DPAA Laboratory shelves for 24 YEARS! Disgraceful!

    Due to antiquated methods and dysfunctional management there is a backlog of over 1,400 sets of remains of American service men and women sitting in cardboard boxes at DPAA awaiting identification right now. The AVERAGE time for identification after remains are received in the DPAA/JPAC laboratory is ELEVEN YEARS! Disgraceful!

    The same group of serial offenders responsible for this ineptitude that brought us multiple outrageous scandals including phony “arrival home” ceremonies and multiple investigations into fraud, waste and abuse of government funds remain in the “new” DPAA. The JPAC Scientific Director was reassigned to be in charge of “partnering with private groups”. Does this mean that he hands out government contracts for work that DPAA should be doing? Disgraceful!

    Meanwhile the JPAC/DPAA management mantra of “Delay, Deny, and wait for the families to Die” continues. The current response time for basic information to families and researchers under the Freedom of Information Act is over ONE YEAR! Federal law requires this information to be provided within 20 days, which DPAA routinely violates without consequences. Disgraceful!

    Anyone with any management experience knows that the entire operation that was JPAC should have been deconstructed, brick by brick. Such needed massive reform simply did not happen. Just when families of our missing servicemen and women thought things could not get worse, it did. The same infectious disease of JPAC arrogance and lies to the families of American heroes took root all over again at DPAA. This incredibly dysfunctional organization continues and has been added to the VA Hospital, Dover Mortuary, Arlington Cemetery, and the Viet Nam Unknown misidentification debacles. Disgraceful!

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