Our MIAs: They Are Not Forgotten

      Each year, Americans set aside National POW/MIA Recognition Day to honor those who fought for freedom and who experienced the worst of war.  We honor the sacrifice of their families, who stand united for the loved ones who have yet to return and who speak with a powerful voice for those we cannot hear. We join them in an unending commitment to fully account for every patriot who has answered the call to defend our nation.
            The strength of that commitment was made powerfully clear here in Maine just a few days ago.  Fifty years ago, on September 14, 1965, Navy pilot Lieutenant Neil Taylor of Rangeley made the ultimate sacrifice while on his 68th mission over Vietnam.  For nearly 49 of those years, he lay at rest in a place known only to God.
            Late last year, due to the perseverance of his family and of our nation’s commitment to those taken prisoner or missing in action, Lt. Taylor’s remains were located in a Vietnamese rice paddy and identified through DNA testing.  On September 14, 2015, 50 years to the day that he gave his life in freedom’s cause, an American hero finally came home, and his family was provided the solace that accompanies closure.
            It was an honor to attend Lt. Taylor’s internment ceremony at Evergreen Cemetery in Rangeley and to present his sister, Ann, with an American Flag that flew over our nation’s Capital in his honor, along with a photograph and etching of his name on the Vietnam Wall, one of Washington’s most sacred monuments.

            Despite the years that had passed, the townspeople of Rangeley never forgot Lt. Taylor.  The ceremony they arranged with Lt. Taylor’s family and the United States Navy was truly inspiring and included a flyover by Navy aircraft, a military color guard, and bagpipers.  A solemn parade wound through the town with the streets bedecked in flags.  Schoolchildren joined in honoring Lt. Taylor.
            Lt. Taylor was a patriot in the best American tradition.  Born and raised in a close-knit community, he stepped forward to serve his nation at a time in our history when military service all too often was met with scorn rather than the respect it deserves.  He was a leader, an accomplished Navy pilot who was commended for his courage and accomplishments.  His life is a powerful reminder that America is the land of the free because it is the home of the brave.
            Throughout every state of the Union, Americans fly the somber POW/MIA flag from federal, state, and local government buildings.  It flies at national cemeteries, Veterans' posts, schools, hospitals, and businesses.  Other than the American flag, it is the only flag ever to have flown over the United States Capitol or the White House.  It is a symbol of our obligation to former prisoners of war and those who are still missing in action. 
            Since World War I, more than 140,000 Americans have suffered the hardships of captivity as prisoners of war. Through two world wars, Korea, Vietnam, the Cold War, the Gulf War, and the conflicts of today, some 83,000 Americans remain missing and unaccounted for.  We must never forget their courage, devotion to duty, and sacrifice.
            That is America’s solemn vow.  To our former prisoners of war, to those still missing in action, and to the families who continue to pay a heavy price for the freedom we enjoy, our message is clear and unwavering – you are not forgotten.