Each year on the third Friday in September, Americans honor the men and women who were prisoners of war and those still missing in action. And as this day approaches, we begin to see displayed the symbol of the nation’s respect for those individuals.
Did you ever wonder how that black and white flag with the silhouette of a figure in profile, guard tower and barbed wire became the easily recognized symbol of respect for those missing men and women?
The POW/MIA flag was created almost 50 years ago, at the request of family members who made up the National League of POW/MIA Families.
In 1971, one member, Mary Hoff, the wife of a POW Navy pilot, suggested creating a flag. Hoff called Annin Flagmakers of Verona, New Jersey, for help creating the symbol.
The flag company, one of America’s oldest, worked with the league to design and manufacture the flag. The flag is not bound by copyright and can be reproduced freely, as its designer Newton Heisley wished it to be.
Congress and the president first recognized National POW/MIA Recognition Day in 1979, and through the early 1980s, the flag’s popularity grew. In 1982, it became the only flag other than the Stars and Stripes to fly over the White House.
In 1989, the POW/MIA Flag was given official permission to be flown on National POW/MIA Recognition Day, along with five other national holidays, at places designated by the secretary of defense. The flag flies below, and not larger than, the United States flag as second in order of precedence.
The observance and the flags remind Americans to remember the men and women kept from their loved ones, their country and their homes — and remind Americans everywhere to rededicate themselves to the mission of returning every POW and MIA military member home.
Each American must ensure they are not forgotten, nor their sacrifices, ever.