Americans valiantly have fought wars on foreign soil, some never to return home to hug their loved ones or receive a proper burial.
Across the United States, people honor those brave men and women who have been or still are prisoners of war or missing in action. The same happens in Guadalupe County as veterans organizations hosted “A Tribute to Our Prisoners of War and those Missing in Action” Friday night at the Geronimo VFW Post 8456.
“This is to honor the people that are still missing,” said Darrell Phelps, senior vice commander of the post. “That’s the whole point to not forget them. They are not forgotten.”
The ceremony has taken place for at least five years, maybe longer, on National POW/MIA Recognition Day, Phelps said. During the ceremony, Geronimo VFW members were joined by members of other local military service organizations such as the McQueeney VFW Post 9213, Disabled American Veterans Chapter 61, American Legion Post 245 and more.
The Guadalupe Valley Young Marines played a major role in the event as they served as the color guard and helped as the names of scores of Texas service men and women still missing in action were read aloud in what is called a roll call of missing warriors.
Upon the reading of each name, veterans lined against the walls of the VFW hall stepped forward, saluted and, as if answering for that particular POW/MIA, said “still missing.”
For each warrior still missing, a Young Marine lit a replica candle and placed the light on a round table.
Dale Bennett, of Seguin, is a member of American Legion Post 245. A veteran who served about 25 years in the Air Force, Bennett was one of the soldiers who stood in for the missing warriors.
He’s participated in the ceremony for the past couple years and plans to continue being a part of it for years to come, the former technical sergeant said.
“I’m a veteran and I think it’s important to remember our POWs and MIAs,” Bennett said. “The VFW here, they always do a fine job and they’re gracious hosts.”
Barbie Rohde and her husband Robert were guests at the ceremony. They attended to support the veterans but also to try to help raise awareness to a cause and nonprofit dear to their hearts.
The Rohdes are state leaders in Texas for Mission 22, an organization that supports veterans and raises awareness for military men and women who contemplate or attempt to commit suicide.
About 23 veterans and service people commit suicide daily, Robert said.
“More awareness needs to happen,” he said.
Their son was one of those servicemen who ended his own life about 18 months ago, Barbie said. He appeared to have it all together was in the middle of an internship with the United States intelligence agency but hid his demons, she said.
“That’s a problem with veterans,” Barbie said. “Veterans don’t show their weakness. They hide it.”
She said Mission 22 is a safe place for them to get help without others knowing. The nonprofit supports veterans and goes where they are to provide awareness, Barbie said.
Geronimo VFW Post 8456 was a good place to interact with vets Friday. About 75 people attended the ceremony, many of them veterans.
All were treated to a solemn, moving tribute.
Near the end of the ceremony, “Taps” blared throughout the hall as veterans saluted and most everyone else stood with right hands over their hearts. Phelps closed by thanking everyone for coming.
“Always remember the saying,” he said, “‘You are not forgotten.’”