Team McChord airmen honor POW/MIAs

By Senior Airman Jacob Jimenez on September 22, 2016

JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD - Team McChord airmen teamed up with the Air Force Sergeants Association to honor and remember prisoners of war and those missing in action during the POW/MIA Remembrance week Sept. 12 through 16 at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

The annual event kicked off Sept. 12 with a wreath laying ceremony and concluded on National POW/MIA Recognition Day Sept. 16. With planning taking place more than seven months in advance, each of the week's events were highly attended.

"These are huge events; we had more than 100 volunteers put this together," said Master Sgt. Brandy Hite, 62nd Aerial Port Squadron first sergeant and this year's POW/MIA event coordinator. "Airmen are more than happy to help support these events and getting volunteers is never a problem."  

The wreath laying ceremony was held at Memorial Grove Garden on McChord Field and offered airmen the opportunity to hear former POWs speak about their war experiences and to remember those who have passed.

"This is the one time of the year we take time to remember those who never came home," said Hite. "This resonates with every servicemember."     

Tuesday's event kicked off with the rumbling of airmen's motorcycles as they rode across McChord Field. More than 20 servicemembers met at Memorial Grove before departing the base together on a group ride to honor POW/MIAs.

"We had phenomenal participation in every event," said Hite. "This is important to everybody."

Following the memorial motorcycle ride, airmen pitched their tents and laid out sleeping bags at the McChord Field track Wednesday morning to prepare for the POW/MIA 24-hour Run. The run kicked off at 8 a.m. and concluded Thursday morning at 8 a.m. More than 250 Team McChord airmen participated, running a cumulative total of 5,397 miles.

"None of us can begin to understand what our POWs have experienced," said Col. Stephen Snelson, 62nd Airlift Wing vice commander. "Hopefully events like this help us to honor and reflect upon their great sacrifice."    

The week's event concluded with the POW/MIA luncheon, allowing airmen to dine with former POWs and toast to their sacrifice.

"They (former POWs) love coming out here to be a part of this," said Hite. "I think they really love the opportunity to tell their story."

The luncheon honored 12 former POWs and all POW/MIA with a POW/MIA table presentation.

"This week gave everyone an opportunity to pause, reflect and remember," said Hite. "You look at everyone's face at the events and you can see that this important to every airman."