POW/MIA Recognition Day ceremony: Area youth help dedicate monument
Area young people honored veterans and a monument was dedicated Friday at the National POW/MIA Recognition Day Ceremony at the Bob Stump Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Prescott.
The Central Arizona Young Marines color guard, made up of Staff Sgt. Jacob Bostwick, Lance Corporal Morgan Watson, Private First Class Elan Watson and Private Levi Sels posted the colors.
"Let the prisoners of war and those missing in action never be forgotten by our nation, but remembered and honored for all time," said Ashley Hensley, a Prescott High School student, who gave the invocation before a crowd of more than 300 people.
William Timpany, a Prescott High School student, led the Pledge of Allegiance and then Annabella Brown of Bradshaw Mountain High School sang the National Anthem with Hensley.
Colleen Gonzalez, a student at Tri-City College Preparatory School, who was mistress of ceremonies, pointed to a table set for one nearby. Gonzalez said it symbolized one prisoner against his oppressors.
"Remember the tablecloth is white, it symbolizes the purity of their intentions to respond to their country's call to arms," said Gonzales as a gun salute went off in the background. "Remember a single red rose displayed in a vase, a reminder of the families and loved ones who keep faith awaiting their return. Remember the red ribbon tied so prominently on the vase, its reminiscent of the red ribbon worn on the lapels of thousands who bear witness to their unyielding determination to demand a proper accounting for them.
"Remember a slice of lemon on the plate to remind us of their bitter fate," said Gonzales as Taps was played in the background. "Remember, there is salt upon the bread plate, symbolic of the family's tears as they wait. Remember the glass is inverted, they cannot toast with us today. The chair is empty, they are not here.
"Remember our friends, they are the ones we love, who love life and freedom as we do. Please honor and remember them."
Since 1979, an annual POW/MIA recognition day has come to symbolize the resolve of the American people not to forget the men and women who gave their freedom to protect us, said Ame Callahan, spokeswoman for the Northern Arizona Veterans Affairs Health Care System.
"We honor the sacrifice and remarkable determination of veterans captured as prisoners of war. We also remember those who remain unaccounted for, and we wish the family some small comfort in knowing the nation has not forgotten them," Callahan said. "This is the 11th year in a row that remembrance ceremony is presented by the young people of the quad-city area, who are committed to serve our nation's veterans."
Then Jesse Blum, a junior at Tri-City College Preparatory High School, delivered her keynote speech saying, "I cannot remember a time when our country was not at war, except with the help of books, and even then it's rare."
"Whether by force or choice, the strains and hardships of war weigh heavily on world leaders and soldiers," Blum said.
Sarah Cramer, a sophomore at Tri-City College Preparatory School, said that because of her physical challenges she can relate to some of the physical difficulties that veterans may experience after war, even though she may not fully understand all that they have been through.
"Prisoners of war and those missing in action must never be forgotten," Cramer said. "They must be revered and honored forever."
The Prescott High School Show Choir sang the anthem of each branch of military branch of service, "You're a Grand Old Flag," and other patriotic music as well as "Proud to be an American."
A monument honoring all veterans was dedicated at the ceremony.
"This monument was created by the love of a grandfather," Callahan said. "A World War II veteran Mr. Wally Presmyk, who lost his grandson, Army Sgt. Kenneth Schall, who was killed in action in Iraq in 2005. Almost a year ago, Wally came to me with a vision, and today his vision is realized."
Many of the bricks surrounding the monument have the names of Arizona veterans who served in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom who received Purple Hearts, Callahan said.
Before Presmyk unveiled the monument, Tony Largo, a Navajo man who served in the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne, said a prayer and Arizona Territory Guard Society members USMC (Ret.) Sgt. Alfonso Santillan Jr., Larry Kimmel of the Military Order of the Purple Heart and a member of the Miami Tribe of Indians of Indiana, and Ed Albert, a member of the Cherokee of the Bear Clan, blessed the monument with bundles of smoking sage and eagle feathers.