There are still 1,645 U.S. military personnel unaccounted for in Southeast Asia since the end of the war there and members of Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter No. 827 want to make sure they aren’t forgotten.
The chapter conducted its annual ceremony Friday evening in Myers Park in conjunction with National Prisoner of War-Missing In Action Recognition Day.
“The motto of the U.S. military is not to let anyone be left behind,” said David Teall, “and it’s the goal of the VVA and many veterans groups to get a full accounting of those who are missing.”
He said the remains of one man, Air Force Major Francis J. McGouldrick, who had been missing since 1968, were recently accounted for. His remains were recovered in 2012 and identified just last month.
He pointed out that efforts are still under way to recover those still missing from World War II and the Korean War and pointed to the recent return of the remains of Air Force Sgt. Dominick J. Licari to Frankfort as an example.
Joseph Kovatchitch explained the POW-MIA table set for one with an empty chair, symbolizing those who are missing. The table is small to symbolize the frailty of one prisoner alone against his oppressors. The single red rose in a vase is a reminder of the families and loved ones who await their return. The red ribbon is a reminder of the red ribbon many wear on their lapels or breasts to show their determination “to demand a proper accounting for our brothers.” A slice of lemon symbolizes their bitter fate and the salt symbolizes the tears their families have shed. The lighted candle represents hope a light to light their way home.
Those who attended the ceremony stood holding lighted candles as Sharon Pettengill, Teall and Kovatchitch took turns reading the names of those from New York state who are still missing in Southeast Asia. Teall stopped when he came to the name Philip B. Terril.
“He was originally from New Hartford,” said Teall. “I’ve worn his bracelet for the last 10 or 15 years.” He added he is the only area resident still missing from the Vietnam War.