By Emily Howard
Killeen Daily Herald
FORT HOOD "You are not forgotten."
This is the phrase written on the somber black POW/MIA flag and the mantra for those comrades and loved ones of soldiers left behind.
During a ceremony in front of Darnall Army Community Hospital Friday, the spirit of those left behind was honored.
The official national observance day for POWs and MIAs is Sept. 14. Three days after the actual holiday, local chapters of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion, along with local community leaders and Fort Hood soldiers and families, gathered to honor those soldiers taken prisoners of war and missing in action.
"We want to let family members know their loved ones are not forgotten ... and they are not standing alone," said Earl Williams, a retired 1st Cavalry Division command sergeant major and coordinator of the event.
Williams is the chief operating officer for the Retired Sergeant Majors and Chiefs Association, a non-profit community service organization.
The 4th Infantry Division Band provided background music while war veterans and widows placed wreaths upon the POW/MIA memorial in front of the hospital, stepped back and saluted their lost comrades.
Brig. Gen. Nolen Bivens, the 4th Infantry Division's commander of maneuvers, expressed how honored he was to speak at such a meaningful ceremony. He said such remembrances were important because we are "living benefactors of their sacrifice."
"Today we gather in resolution and remembrance," said Bivens. "These two words represent the theme of this memorial and our motto: 'You are not forgotten.'"
As of last year, more than 1,800 Americans were still listed as prisoners of war, missing in action, or killed in action with body not recovered, according to the Department of Defense. Every state is accounted for on the grim list, and 125 of those soldiers were from Texas.
Each year, through the efforts of these veterans' organizations, more and more Americans are accounted for.
Ruby Williams is the widow of a World War II soldier who was taken prisoner for more than three years, and was forced to help build the famed "Bridge over the River Kwai."
She said that her experiences have made her more sensitive to these ceremonies.
"I can't hear taps without puddling up," she said.
Williams encouraged everyone to join her organization, the Central Texas Chapter of ex-POWs.
"We are here to help those who can't help themselves," she said.
Contact Emily Howard at email@example.com.