Gen. Dempsey's Remarks at the POW/MIA Recognition Day Ceremony
As Delivered by General Martin E. Dempsey , The Pentagon, Washington, D.C. Friday, September 20, 2013
Secretary Hagel, Dr. Wolfowitz, leaders of the Defense Department, distinguished guests ... good morning and thank you all for being here. And let me begin by thanking the wonderful Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and Coast Guardsmen and their leaders arrayed before you on this field today and always make you proud.
My wife Deanie and I offer a special welcome to all former prisoners of war and your families … and a special welcome to the families of those still missing in action and all who remain dedicated to bringing them home. It’s a great honor to share this day with you.
Deeply rooted in each of us is a desire to make a difference. To live a life that outlasts us, and to make life a little better for those who come after us.
Thousands of American prisoners of war, who suffered untold atrocities and the more than 83,000 Americans still missing—made a difference.
People like First Lieutenant John Morgan, a B-17 pilot in the European Theater during World War II. After he received the Medal of Honor for his heroic acts in the skies over Germany in July of 1944, he was ordered to stop flying combat missions. This order went against his character—both as an Airman … as an American. Lieutenant Morgan decided that so long as the Allies were at war, so was he. And on his 26th combat mission, he was shot down and spent 14 months as a prisoner of war—he made a difference.
I am also inspired by the efforts of the countless individuals and organizations that are dedicated to honor American prisoners of war and who continue the search for those missing in action. Their efforts are fueled by human sweat and ignited by their unwavering determination. They keep our nation’s promise to never leave a comrade.
Their efforts reach deep into the four corners of the globe, into foreign lands far from home ... from the World War II battlefields across Europe … to the islands of the Pacific … from Pusan to the Yalu River … Saigon to Hanoi … and those still missing from our most recent conflicts.
Their efforts make a difference. As it did with Second Lieutenant Vernal Bird, an A-20 pilot lost in March of 1944, in the South Pacific. A marker in his hometown reads, "although his body lies over there, sweet memories linger here.”
Lieutenant Bird was accounted for last month and he will receive full military honors next week when he is laid to rest in Springville, Utah.
But there’s more work to do.
More families deserve closure. More of those who’ve worn our nation’s cloth deserve to come home.
We depended on them in battle ... and today, they depend on us.
Today, as we fly the familiar black and white flag across our country, it’s not only a symbol to remember the POW and MIA community. It’s a charge—to keep faith with every prisoner of war, those still missing in action, their families, and our military community … to remain undaunted by time and undeterred by challenges.
For wherever our missing lie, wherever a prisoner waits, we will remain committed to freeing them.
That is the difference we will make … to not rest … to not call our mission complete … not until our family is whole again.
I want to thank you all for being here today, and I also again want to thank those who were responsible for putting together this wonderful ceremony.
Thank you very much.