Sunday, May 24, 2009

Remembering Those Who Made the Ultimate Sacrifice

Monday, service members, families, veterans and U.S. citizens around the world will take time out of their day to honor people who made the ultimate sacrifice. For those who have lost friends and comrades through the years, Memorial Day is a chance to remember last conversations, special moments, and times that we knew our brethren were willing to go above and beyond to accomplish the mission and protect the rest of us.

In his Memorial Day message to the troops, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Mike Mullen highlighted the sacrifice of Tech. Sgt. Phillip Myers, who died April 4 disarming an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan. Myers is one of many service members who gave his life so that others may live.

Nearly 100,000 U.S. service members have died in combat in the U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) area of responsibility (AOR) since the 1871 Korean Expedition. Many of these service members were killed in the Vietnam and Korean Wars. Many others were labeled “missing in action.”

For the men and women responsible for bringing the remains of the missing-in-action home, Memorial Day takes on a special meaning.

The Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command, which is a direct reporting unit to USPACOM, works on a daily basis to help recover and repatriate the remains of these missing service members. Nearly every year, a representative from the command, which is based at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii, travels to Washington, D.C. to provide an update to the thousands who gather at the National Mall to honor our fallen.

Many who gather there are veterans themselves. Many served in Vietnam or Korea, and they live every day with the memories of their brothers-in-arms. The annual visit to the memorials in Washington, D.C., provides the veterans a chance to formally honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice in the service of our nation.

While we honor the men and women who went before us, thousands more serve every day in the Asia-Pacific region to contribute to security and stability. The presence maintained by the men and women of USPACOM serves as deterrent to conflict, so the families and veterans of previous conflicts know that the loss of their loved ones and friends was not in vain.

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