MOUNT VERNON — The annual POW-MIA ceremony, held in remembrance of the country’s fighting men and women who are unaccounted for or still being held prisoner in parts unknown, was held on Public Square, Thursday night.
The welcome was given by Kevin Henthorn, Knox County Veterans Services Office director. The invocation was given by the Rev. John Capper.
“Tonight we remember those who didn’t come back,” said Capper. “Those who are prisoners in a foreign land, held by a foreign power. And those who are missing. We don’t know where they are or what happened to them. This night we ask you to help us remember the MIAs and the POWs.”
The presentation of colors was made by the Knox County Career Center ROTC.
After the invocation and presentation of colors, the Star-Spangled Banner was sung by the Mount Vernon Heritage Singers and the crowd was led in the Pledge of Allegiance by Mount Vernon Mayor Richard K. Mavis.
Guest speaker for the evening was Vietnam veteran George Curry.
“I am a proud Vietnam veteran of combat,” he said. “I am also proud to be a Knox County Veterans Services Commissioner. I am dedicated to protect the rights of, serve and assist any way I can, all Knox County veterans who are in need.
“We are gathered to reflect here today and remember the prisoners of war and the people who are missing in action from all wars, and acknowledge their extreme sacrifices.
“Let me tell you about one such individual. My uncle, James Curry. James was captured by the North Koreans on Nov. 2, 1950. He was forced to march several hundred miles and fell exhausted and could not go any farther. The North Koreans prodded him to get up and when he did not they shot at him eight times. Luckily, they were bad shots and only hit him once. He feigned death and they left him for dead.”
Curry said his uncle was captured again by the Red Chinese and held in a prisoner of war camp for 33 months.
“During that time he endured a life of starvation, torture and illnesses,” Curry continued. “It’s tough for us to imagine some of the experiences he and some of the other prisoners of war went through. He was released the day of armistice on Aug. 5, 1953.”
Curry said his uncle was the only reported Knox County prisoner of war during the Korean War.
The missing man ceremony was conducted by the KCCC ROTC. Kirsti Lepley explained the symbolism of the items on the table while Ben Fike demonstrated the items.
In the ceremony, a round table is used to show the everlasting concern for the soldiers still missing. A white tablecloth covers the table, symbolizing the purity of their motives when answering the call to duty.
Several items are then placed on the table.
A single red rose, displayed in a vase, is a reminder of the life of each of the missing, and their loved ones and friends who keep the faith, awaiting answers. The vase is tied with a red ribbon, symbolizing loved ones’ continued determination to account for the missing.
A slice of lemon on the bread plate is to remind viewers of the bitter fate of those captured and missing in a foreign land.
A pinch of salt symbolizes the tears endured by those missing and their families who seek answers.
A Bible represents the strength gained through faith to sustain those lost from the country, founded as one nation under God.
The glass is inverted to symbolize their inability to share this evening's toast.
The chairs, one for each branch of the service, are empty — they are missing. Those present then raise their water glasses in a toast to honor America’s POW/MIAs and to the success of efforts to account for them.