DULUTH, MN– The third Friday of September was declared National Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Recognition Day in 1986.
The Northland Vietnam Veterans Association held an annual ceremony in honor of the day at Memorial Park in West Duluth.
Neill Atkins was Friday night’s keynote speaker. He served as a Navy Corpsman during the Vietnam War and has been working locally to bring awareness to the cause. When he worked on the Duluth City Council, Atkins said he sponsored a resolution encouraging the United States government to do more research on prisoners of war.
“In the Military, whether its the Navy, Marines, Air Force, Coast Guard or Army, you don’t want to leave anybody behind, and some of these people were left behind – whether they disappeared, whether they went down in a ship and were never found or in a battle, some people are vaporized,” Atkins said, “We know that there were prisoners… that were alive when people saw them go off and they never came back… and we want accountability, and we would like an accounting, someday.”
Dwight Nelson with the Northland Vietnam Veterans Association presided over the ceremony. He said annual ceremonies like this one emphasize the promises made in the military to keep fellow members safe – and honor all veterans.
It’s important because its a bond that military personnel have with each other. It’s the bond that you are going to bring everyone home one way or the other.” Nelson said.
According to the American Legion, More than 82,000 Americans remain missing from the major United States wars, going back to World War II.
POW/MIA Day is a commitment to reflect on the sacrifices made by military men and women, and to raise awareness for those who never came home.
The Northland Vietnam Veterans Association has been honoring POW/MIA Northland men and women whose names are inscribed on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall since September of 1988.