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MCLB hosts POW/MIA breakfast

Photo by Laura Williams

Photo by Laura Williams

MCLB-ALBANY, Ga. -- Every year around this time, the United States takes time to reflect on the sacrifices made by its missing military personnel and former prisoners of war, as well as their families.

On Friday, Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany did its part by hosting a POW/MIA recognition breakfast at the base's conference center.

"Each year we do this in mid-September to celebrate liberated prisoners of war and those missing in action," said Col. Terry Williams, commanding officer of the base. "These people have experienced what few have. It's truly a special fraternity, for lack of a better word.

"It's important we recognize the sacrifice of those people and their families who had to live not knowing where they were. They (the POWs) walked in the shadow of death, but feared no evil. We pay a small fraction by pausing to remember until every story ends."

Jim "Moe" Moyer, state director of Rolling Thunder's Georgia, Florida and Alabama chapters, was the guest speaker.

The "Rolling Thunder" name may immediately be thought of by some to be a motorcycle group. While the organization's members are seen on motorcycles, Moyer stressed that it is not a riding club, but rather a group that aims to educate the public on the POW/MIA issue.

"Our objective is to correct the past and protect the future," Moyer said.

In all, there are roughly 88,000 U.S. military personnel still unaccounted for. About 78,000 are from World War II, 8,000 are from the Korean War, 120 are from the Cold War and 1,700 are from the Vietnam War.

As for the current conflict, there are two missing. Sgt. Ahmed Qusai Al-Taie was captured in Iraq in October 2006, and Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl was captured in Afghanistan in June 2009.

"These are the faces and names we should know. These are the people we should not forget," Moyer said.

Present at the ceremony were former POWs, including Lee James, who served in the Army Air Corps during World War II.

He was held as a prisoner of war in Germany for eight months.

"I tell people that there are ex-POWs and there are ex-POWs; some (experiences) are worse than others," he said. "I was in an officer's camp in Germany. I was on a starvation diet, but the people in Germany weren't eating much better.

"I was happy to get home."

From the perspective of someone who had to endure a prisoner of war status, James said is it crucial the cause not be forgotten.

"(POW/MIA recognition ceremonies) are a statement to the nation and wherever they have them," he said.

During his address, Moyer announced that there would be events held next week at the Andersonville National Historic Site to acknowledge former POWs and those still missing in action.

"Two hundred or so former POWs are expected to be at the celebration," he said. "We invite the public to come and break bread with national heroes."

The event will start with a dinner on the site at 6 p.m. Thursday. On Friday, there will be services at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. honoring ex-POWs and MIA personnel, the first of which will include the Vietnam War memorial traveling wall. There will also be a dinner at 6 p.m. and a candlelight service at 8 p.m.

In addition, there is a recognition service planned for 10 a.m. Saturday. Gold Star mothers from Georgia and Alabama are expected to attend the festivities.

In the course of performing his duties, Moyer said he has felt extremely lucky to interact with the people he has.

"I'm a blessed man," he said. "It gives me goosebumps just to shake hands (with ex-POWs). It's a thrill to work with them.

"It's our job to make sure the public doesn't forget and our leaders don't forget."

About 60 percent of the Rolling Thunder membership is made up of military veterans, Moyer added.