Friday morning, before the moon set in the west, more than a 100 airmen gathered at Wings of Freedom Park on Altus Air Force Base for the Prisoner of War-Missing in Action or POW-MIA Run.
The course began at the base and stretched down through the main gate and east on Veterans Drive, where runners met at the Department of Veteran Affairs to pay tribute to prisoners of war and those missing in action.
Before runners began the trek, Sgt. Audrye Rojas shared stories from prisoners of war and those missing in action with ties to the Altus community and thoughts on the importance of honoring and remembering military service members who were willing to sacrifice their lives for their country.
With reflective strips and a light mist gleaming off the pavement, airmen honored the memory of each prisoner of war and those missing in action as they set off.
Though some walked, the drove of runners was a true testament to military discipline at its best. Runners pushed each other to challenge themselves, chanted and cheered as they rounded the final lap around the base’s stationary KC-135 and C-17 at Wings of Freedom Park.
“We wanted to do something that was on a volunteer basis,” Rojas said. “Instead of a requirement, it’s a choice to participate and more meaningful.”
Though there are missing soldiers being found all the time, there are still many whose stories are left unfinished. According to the Defense POW-MIA Accounting Agency, there are 83,000 Americans missing from World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam War and other conflicts. Of those losses, 75 percent are in the Asia-Pacific theater. More than 40,000 are presumed to be lost at sea and the event was organized to honor and remember their sacrifice.
Across the United States, National POW-MIA Recognition Day is observed on the third Friday in September to pay tribute to soldiers and their families affected by a lack of finality.
“We wish each one could have a happy ending and finally have their story told,” Rojas said. “That’s why we remember them.”
Reach Katrina Goforth at 580-482-1221, ext. 2077.