Every September, members of the community, family and friends of veterans gather to remember soldiers who remain unaccounted for during Williamstown’s annual POW and MIA Recognition Day.
This year’s event will take place at Pfeiffer Community Center on Sept. 16.
“Over at the Pfeiffer Center, we have a POW/MIA park with flags and everything,” said Walter Schaefer, service officer for American Legion Post 252. “Anyone that wants to come is invited.”
The national event originated in 1979, when Congress and President Jimmy Carter passed resolutions to make the third Friday of September an official day of remembrance for 2,500 POWs and MIAs still missing from the Vietnam War, after their families pushed for full accountability.
“This event is important, because in World War II, we had people who never came home,” said Schaefer. “We have men who came home from the war and they had issues …
“We still have people in Vietnam sifting through the dirt to find any type of remains.”
Williamstown will welcome VFW Post 1616, American Legion Post 252 and representatives from the Catholic War Veterans of America. Also participating will be the Williamstown High School ROTC and local Boy Scouts.
The raising and lowering of the American flag will start the event, along with an opening prayer. That will be followed by a reading of names of the missing POWs and MIAs by the ROTC. Mayor Richard DiLucia will also be on hand.
“We have a bell that we ring for every name that is read,” Schaefer noted. “We are unsure of how the list developed, but it has been passed down from one generation of veterans to another.”
The POW/MIA park will be decorated with wreaths donated from the veterans posts, including the Women’s Auxiliary. The wreaths will not only represent the different branches of the military, but also memorialize each American war, from World War I and II to Korea and Vietnam. The township will also place American flags across the park.
Schaefer hopes to reach more Williamstown residents every year to help grow the knowledge and understanding of the sacrifices made by Americans at war.
“Sometimes we get 20 people and sometimes we get 50,” he acknowledged. “This year, we are hoping to get a lot more people … We want people to know that this is happening.”
The POW and MIA Recognition Day event will begin at 6 p.m. and will conclude with light refreshments served at the local veterans posts. For more information, reach out to Schaefer at email@example.com.