FORT HOOD — Twenty-one wreaths lined the center of the floor as the bell tolled 105 times for the Texas service members who are still unaccounted for from the Vietnam War.
The Armed Forces E9 Association and III Corps and Fort Hood joined forces to honor prisoners of war and those missing in action from the Vietnam War as part of National POW/MIA Recognition Day. Due to weather, the event was held at Abrams Physical Fitness Center, instead of at Fort Hood’s only POW/MIA monument at Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center.
“It’s a great honor to provide the proper visibility that’s needed for those who have given so much — especially for the families,” said Darnall’s Command Sgt. Maj. Roger Valarde. “We have done this event for many years to show that we totally support our veterans and those that we are honoring who still have not returned home.”
Veterans’ organizations, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion and the Military Order of the Purple Heart, participated the ceremony.
“We’ve been doing this event for 27 years,” said retired Command Sgt. Maj. Earl Williams. “We hold it to show family members who have lost a service member that we have not forgotten them, especially those lost in Vietnam. I ring the bell for each service member as a way to personalize it, to put a name to a number of those that are still missing.”
Missing and unaccounted for Americans hit close to home for Killeen Mayor Dan Corbin, who served as the event’s guest speaker.
“My brother-in-law went missing in action in Vietnam when his helicopter was shot down. I got a leave to go home for a few days and break the news to my wife that her brother was MIA,” Corbin said. “I witnessed the anguish, the grief and the uncertainty — and the sorrow every time the phone rang, hoping for positive news.”
The Texas Fallen Heroes Memorial was displayed for the first time at this year’s ceremony, featuring 598 photos of Texas service members who are missing in action from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan from 2001-2012. An estimated $10,000 to $12,000 is raised through donations each year by the Military Order of the Purple Heart to continue adding photos to the memorial and to sustain a travel schedule to display it.