BOISE — A group of about 100 people gathered in front of the Idaho State Capitol on Friday to draw attention to thousands of soldiers and other military personnel who never returned home from war and are still considered missing in action or prisoners of war.
Presenters read a proclamation for POW/MIA Recognition Day from Idaho Gov. Butch Otter, which noted there are still 78,000 World War II veterans, 8,000 from the Korean War, 120 from the Cold War and 1,700 from the Vietnam War who have not been accounted for and are still considered missing or prisoners of war.
In the proclamation, Otter also mentions U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl of Hailey, who was taken prisoner in June 2009 by the Taliban-aligned Haqqani network. The governor was not present for the ceremony.
Eagle resident Mark Stephensen, national treasurer of the National League of POW/MIA Families, told those gathered that efforts continue to find each of those reported missing.
He thanked Otter for an executive order that requires state facilities across Idaho to fly the black-and-white POW/MIA flag.
"This tells people in Idaho and visitors that POW/MIA Recognition Day happens every day in Idaho," said Stephensen, who serves as a state hazard mitigation officer for the state Bureau of Homeland Security.
Retired Boise dentist and oral surgeon Don Pape, who attended the ceremony, said he's proud of the people who have never forgotten those who didn't return home. Pape was a prisoner of war during the Korean War.
"I admire our nation for persisting in trying to get them back," said Pape, who also served as an Idaho Air National Guard pilot and is a member of the Idaho Aviation Hall of Fame.
Jake Lambert spent 75 days as a prisoner during World War II after the destroyer he served on, the USS Perry, struck a Japanese mine and sank on Sept. 13, 1944. He said he also appreciates the ongoing attention paid to the missing. He said he still holds out hope that many of those missing will be found.
"I will praise the Lord when that happens," Lambert said.
Sgt. Maj. Steve Woodall of the Idaho National Guard said he appreciated the recognition day, one of dozens of similar ceremonies held across the United States on Friday.
"It reminds everyone that this is still in the community's eyes," said Woodall, a member of the Idaho National Guard's command staff.