2018-09-28 / Front Page

Remembering our nation’s heroes

Fort Gordon honors POWs/MIAs with ceremony
Laura Levering
Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office


Offering a salute after a wreath placement in observance of POW and MIA Recognition Day are Col. Jim Clifford, Fort Gordon garrison commander; and Staff Sgt. Z. Salgadojorles, Ordnance Training Detachment – Gordon. Bill Bengtson / Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office Offering a salute after a wreath placement in observance of POW and MIA Recognition Day are Col. Jim Clifford, Fort Gordon garrison commander; and Staff Sgt. Z. Salgadojorles, Ordnance Training Detachment – Gordon. Bill Bengtson / Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office Fort Gordon held a POW/MIA Recognition Day ceremony Sept. 21 at the POW/MIA monument on the corner of Chamberlain Avenue and Kilbourne Street.

Observed every year on the third Friday of September, National POW/MIA Recognition Day is a day set aside to honor the commitment and sacrifices made by the nation’s prisoners of war and those still missing in action.

Presiding over the ceremony, Fort Gordon Garrison Commander Col. Jim Clifford told those in attendance that the nation’s POWs and MIAs are among the world’s most heroic people and that it is important to never forget them.

“On this day, we remember those who heroically endured enemy capture and torture, yet were not broken,” Clifford said. “They remained courageous and hopeful in the most inhumane circumstances, and they returned home with honor.”


Waiting for the POW/MIA Recognition Day ceremony to begin are left to right: Querin Herlik, POW Feb. 12, 1969 - Mar. 11, 1969; Carl Weatherman, POW Nov. 30, 1950 - Aug. 28, 1953; Edward William, POW Jul. 14, 1953 - Sept. 22, 1953 and Robert Sanders, POW Jul. 2, 1944 - Apr. 29, 1945. Bill Bengtson / Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office Waiting for the POW/MIA Recognition Day ceremony to begin are left to right: Querin Herlik, POW Feb. 12, 1969 - Mar. 11, 1969; Carl Weatherman, POW Nov. 30, 1950 - Aug. 28, 1953; Edward William, POW Jul. 14, 1953 - Sept. 22, 1953 and Robert Sanders, POW Jul. 2, 1944 - Apr. 29, 1945. Bill Bengtson / Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office Five prisoners of war attended the ceremony, including Edward Williams, who was captured at Quon Valley in Korea during the Korean War in 1953.

Williams spent more than two months as a POW, during which time he credits his faith with keeping him alive.

“I thought they were going to kill me,” Williams recalled.

More than 82,000 Americans remain missing in action from World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and other conflicts. The number is a staggering, but through ongoing efforts, it is decreasing largely due to ongoing search and recovery efforts by a corps of experts from the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. Clifford said the organization came about because of advocacy from POW/MIA organizations.


Army Veteran Colton Geary, a Grovetown resident, is among the civilians on hand for Fort Gordon’s annual POW/MIA recognition ceremony. Bill Bengtson / Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office Army Veteran Colton Geary, a Grovetown resident, is among the civilians on hand for Fort Gordon’s annual POW/MIA recognition ceremony. Bill Bengtson / Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office “There are still a number of missing in action across the globe, and every year we’re able to bring some home and give their families a level of closure,” Clifford said. “In this month alone, 24 Servicemembers from World War II and the Korean War were brought home, identified, and reunited with families.”


This monument, at Chamberlain Avenue and Kilbourne Street, is the traditional centerpiece of Fort Gordon’s annual POW/MIA remembrance event. Bill Bengtson / Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office This monument, at Chamberlain Avenue and Kilbourne Street, is the traditional centerpiece of Fort Gordon’s annual POW/MIA remembrance event. Bill Bengtson / Fort Gordon Public Affairs Office Clifford told attendees that one of the nation’s highest priorities is to bring everyone home; something he can personally attest to.

In 2003, Clifford watched as members of 1st Ranger Battalion, elements of the Navy SEALS, and various other special operations left an airfield in the Middle East to conduct a rescue of Pfc. Jessica Lynch from an Iraqi hospital.

“In the preparation for that raid, national-level intelligence and theater strategic assets were diverted from the push to Baghdad,” Clifford said. “We had not yet seized Baghdad at that point in time; we were still in the middle of a fight, having just passed through Nasiriyah, and we used those assets to solely focus on finding and hoping to return those Servicemembers that were missing at the time.”

The raid was a success, and not only did Lynch return home safely, but members of 1st Ranger Battalion made a discovery that led to the return of additional Servicemembers. After talking to hospital staff, they learned that eight Servicemembers were buried in shallow graves on site.

“Using only their hands and their helmets, they recovered those remains,” Clifford said. “As daylight broke, security became tighter, and fighting intensified, they stayed in their locations to make sure they could bring those Servicemembers home and make sure that they received a proper burial.”

It was one of many reasons Clifford said he is proud to be a member of the military.

“No matter how long it takes, we are committed to finding those missing in action in using the best assets to our nation’s ability to bring them home,” Clifford said. “I’m confident that if I go missing, my comrades will come looking for me.”

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