Thursday NAS Meridian honored prisoners of war and those missing in action during its annual remembrance ceremony at city hall.
“These folks made a sacrifice for us that most of us can never even imagine. We live our lives everyday not thinking about anything that has to be done to make that happen. The reality is that the freedoms we enjoy are because of the sacrifices they made,” said NAS Meridian Commanding Officer Brain Horstman.
It is reported that the number of Americans missing in action include more than 73,000 from WWII, around 7,800 from the Korean War, 1,600 from the Vietnam War, and over 120 from the Cold War.
The ceremony highlighted the government’s commitment to finding these lost soldiers.
“There are troops that have been left on the battlefield, unable to return their remains back home. When some of those remains are discovered after all these years, if we have the information, DNA, and identifying information of those troops, we’re sometimes able to return those remains back home,” said Cody Perkins, an outreach services officer with the Mississippi State Veterans Affairs Board.
Billy Whitaker, a local veteran who fought in the Korean War, helped one family find Billy Watford, a veteran who had been missing since 1950. The two had been friends during the war.
“Much like all teenagers. We did not really realize what war was all about. When we were told we were going to Korea, that the war had started, we didn’t realize the danger we’d be facing,” said Whitaker.
Whitaker witnessed Watford dying on the battlefield and said he’s grateful to have brought closure to the Watford family.
“I guess it was a sense of satisfaction to know that I had relieved the people of something they were concerned or even worried about for all these many years.”
The ceremony included a proclamation by Governor Phil Bryant. The national POW/MIA ceremony takes place Saturday on Recognition Day in Washington D.C.