By Theresa Whitfield
On Friday, September 21st, each branch of the military came together at the Pentagon to honor the families of Prisoners of War and those Missing in Action, and to remind us that we will never stop fighting for these individuals. This ceremony stood as a true testament to the beauty and cohesion of the armed forces.
For those in the crowd, it truly felt as though we were witnessing something much larger and greater than ourselves. The evening began with a march-on from all branches of the military, as well as the flags of each state being represented. They moved in perfect unison, as if all together they made up one body. This body moved as a dancer would, with grace and precision, but also with intensity and purpose, never losing the rhythm of the steady beating drum. One could feel the energy within this body, and it brought to life all at once feelings of pride, joy, amazement, and awe.
Each part of this body maintained perfect composure as they were passed over for a ceremonial service inspection. Shortly following, the National Anthem was performed, followed by words from the Honorable James Mattis, U.S. Secretary of Defense. With the personal words he spoke, he conveyed the significance and impact of all POW’s/MIA’s with the utmost gratitude to them and also their families, for their unwavering faith and commitment.
“From the tomb of the unknown soldier here in Washington, to the Punchbowl in Hawaii, to the Wall of the Missing in Manila and so many other locations, we will never forget our duty to keep searching for those still awaiting their homecoming,” Mattis said.
The audience to whom Mattis spoke was comprised of the families of the POW’s/MIA’s, as well as JROTC and ROTC units, and various other members of the military. While they stayed at their seats the whole ceremony, the attitude of the audience was not merely a passive one. They were not there to simply watch a performance. By being present, each person joined themselves to this body by showing their respect and support for the families, as well as contributed to honoring of the individuals. Each individual also has the responsibility to never give up on those who are prisoners of war and missing in action, because it is our duty to keep fighting for them until they come safely home.
The ceremony concluded with the anthem of each branch played consecutively. When the anthems were played, it united those in the ceremony and the military members in the audience as they stood for their respective anthems.
Seeing every branch work together as a cohesive unit reminded me of the reason why one joins the Armed Forces in the first place. One joins the Armed Forces to be apart of something greater than themselves, and to fight to protect this great nation. One willingly forgets his own self to contribute to the body of the whole military. But if this ceremony showed anything, it served as a reminder that while one may seem to forget himself when he joins the military, the military does not forget him.