POWs and MIAs to be remembered

By CANDY NEAL
cneal@dcherald.com

JASPER — A ceremony will be held locally to remember service members who are officially prisoners of war or missing in action.

The ceremony will be at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 17, at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 673, 3131 Newton St., Jasper.

“We’re going to have a little meeting, a get-together to discuss relevant things concerning prisoners of war and those who are missing in action,” said Ed Oser, who is organizing the event with his wife, Ann. “At the end, there will be a ceremony to recognize them.”

Sept. 17 is National POW/MIA Recognition Day in the United States.

Oser has attended other recognition ceremonies in the past. But he is looking to do something a little different with this one. He plans to focus on two Vietnam War soldiers who are MIA: one from French Lick and one from Evansville.

“I'm trying to make it real to the people in the audience,” Oser said. “These are soldiers who lived 30 miles and 60 miles away from where we live. So it does strike home.”

Charles E. Beals of French Lick was in the infantry and was walking second in line on July 7, 1970, in Vietnam when a rocket-propelled grenade was fired at the lead person, who was likely killed. Beals “was struck in the leg and then struck in the back and neck with machine gunfire,” Oser said. “They believe they were killed. But they had to retreat, so they were never able to recover their bodies.”

Raymond A. Wagner of Evansville was aboard one of two air rescue helicopters on March 27, 1972, in Cambodia. Radio contact with Wagner’s helicopter was lost. The first helicopter circled back around and the soldiers aboard saw black smoke coming from the jungle below. “They tried to get as close as they could to that wreckage,” Oser said, “but the heat (from the wreck) was so intense, they couldn't get very close. So they assumed that they all burned up in the wreckage.”

Because bodies were not retrieved to determine for sure that the soldiers died, they are listed as missing in action.

There will also be a discussion with the audience about what they would have done in those situations, to show how difficult war situations really are, Oser explained.

“There are going to be some veterans there. Some will be infantrymen. We want their opinion,” he said. “There are different protocols for what happens with an aircraft crash and when it’s shot down. We hope to get a little bit of a perspective from the audience.”

There are 50 Indiana residents listed as MIAs from the Vietnam War, Oser said.

At the conclusion of the remembrance program, there will be a ceremony at which three roses will be presented: a red one, a white one and a blue one. Each color has a significant meaning, and Oser explained that as he read what will be read about each rose’s color and its symbolism in the ceremony.

“The red of our country's flag has been made redder by their heroism. Therefore, we place this red flower to symbolize their courage and gallantry,” he said. "The white became more stainlessly pure by their motives, which impel them. We place this white flower as a remembrance of their unselfish devotion to duty. The blue flower symbolizes the great love that our comrades had for our flag and country.”

Jeremy Mundy, commander of VFW 673 Post, said it’s important to remember those who have served their country, including those who did not or have not yet returned home.

“We just really need to focus on our veterans and what folks have done for us,” he said, “and also to realize that many of them have not come home. These wars and conflicts may be over with. But there's always leftover issues that go with all of them. There's a lot of folks out there who are unaccounted for, or as prisoners of war that may have died while in captivity. And we still don't know their whereabouts.”

For more information about the remembrance program, contact Oser at 812-482-4712.




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