Weekly Columns

Few people understand the horrors of being held captive by our enemies. The courage of the men and women who have been victimized offer an inspiring example of the human will to survive. We recognize their bravery in September on National POW/MIA Recognition Day, but their service and sacrifice deserves more attention.

Chief Warrant Officer Austin Knapp served with the 109th Medical Battalion, 34th Division. He was captured by the Germans in North Africa during WWII and imprisoned for more than two years. He detailed his ordeal in a journal. 

His granddaughter, Andrea Fisher, coordinates the POW/MIA Ceremony at the Arkansas State Capitol. For her family, his journal is a cherished possession that shows what he endured as a POW and what motivated him to survive. 

On the one-year anniversary of his captivity he wrote “…through it all I've learned that ‘HOME’ is the most pleasant word in any language.”

The promise of making it back to see loved ones is what inspired him to stay strong.

Just like our POWs and those missing in action fought with resolve in defense of our nation and its ideals, so too shall we be determined to bring these men and women home. 

No matter where they are, or how long they have been gone, we must commit to never give up looking for them and give answers to the families waiting to hear their loved one has been found.

This is the reason the men and women of the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency spend years investigating possible recovery sites. I am grateful for these efforts and committed to dedicating the resources necessary to bring our men and women home.

We simply do not leave anyone behind, and we do not abandon those who remain missing.

18-year-old Marine Corps Private First Class Larry Roberts of Damascus, Arkansas fought against the Japanese on the island of Betio in the Tarawa Atoll in November 1943. He was one of one thousand Marines and sailors killed in the battle. In 1949 his remains were declared non-recoverable, but more than seven decades later, he was identified. In June, he was returned to his family and laid to rest with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery.

Had we given up, Private Roberts’ family, friends and loved ones would not have had the opportunity to pay their final respects and give him a proper burial. Private Roberts gave everything for his country. While we cannot ever fully repay him, we must strive to fulfill our promise to him and all who are missing. 

Each day when I walk by the POW/MIA flag outside my office, it is a reminder of the obligation we have to our prisoners of war, those missing in action, and their families. No one should ever wonder where their son, daughter, mother, father, husband or wife who served in uniform is, or when they will return home. 

While fully aware of the dangers they face, our men and women bravely put themselves in harm’s way to defend our country, ideals and allies around the world. We continue to pray that our missing troops will be identified and return home soon.