A light drizzle did nothing to dampen the spirits of about 50 military veterans and their family members Saturday as they collected around downtown Texarkana's Korea-Vietnam Memorial for the 31st Annual POW-MIA Vigil.
Just before the ceremony's afternoon service, the gathering gazed reverently upward as 176 red, white and blue helium balloons floated peacefully into the overcast sky while dozens of cars, trucks and motorcycles careened through the downtown area on their way to the memorial. This 24th Annual Ride To Remember's purpose was to pay tribute to, honor, remember and respect the more than 85,000 American military service members from World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, the Persian Gulf War and beyond who are unaccounted for.
The Texarkana Area Chapter 278 of the Vietnam Veterans of America held their second and final day of this vigil in conjunction with the Ride to Remember—a procession which started at the Arkansas Welcome Center and proceeded to the memorial.
Following the caravan's arrival, the 176 balloons lifted off to honor 176 Korean and Vietnam War veterans from Arkansas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Texas who are still classified as either prisoners of war or missing in action.
Chapter 278 President Greg Beck said that since these vigils started more than 30 years ago, he is pleased to see that the U.S. government's work to find, identify and return remains has yielded the accounting of about 1,000 of the 2,555 Vietnam service members unaccounted for since about 1988. However, Beck added that with more than 1,500 Vietnam service members still unaccounted for, the vigils and remembrances must continue in order to keep the government vigilant in its efforts.
Besides honoring and remembering those POWs and MIAs still unaccounted for, Beck said the vigil's purpose has another objective.
"Another big reason we are doing this is to make sure both our current and future young military service members, who are or who might go missing in action or become prisoners of war, will always be searched for and never forgotten," Beck said.
The vigil's first day on Friday coincided with National POW-MIA Recognition Day. The vigil ended Saturday evening featuring a second and final closing candlelight service, focusing on the hope that one day, the families of the more than 85,000 American POWs and MIAs will shave closure.