DOVER AIR FORCE BASE — As the United States reflected Friday during National POW/MIA Recognition Day, there remained more than 81,000 U.S. service members missing.
That’s 81,000 families who haven’t received closure via their loved ones returning home from fighting wars in foreign lands.
But they will never be forgotten, said Dr. Timothy McMahon, a medical examiner for the Department of Defense DNA Operations who was the guest speaker at Dover Air Force Base’s POW/MIA Recognition Day.
“It’s a day that serves not only to recognize and honor those U.S. service members who survived and returned home after being prisoners of war, but all those who remained,” Dr. McMahon said. “Thousands of U.S. service members are missing from Vietnam, World War II, Korea and others.
“It is also a time for us to reaffirm to their families that we will never give up looking for their loved ones.”
Dr. McMahon said that emerging technologies in identifying DNA and remains have vastly increased the ability to match a missing service member to their family.
He works for the Dover Air Force Base Medical Examiner Facility, which provides the Department of Defense and other federal agencies comprehensive forensic investigative services, to include forensic pathology, DNA forensics, forensic toxicology and medical mortality surveillance.
AFMES is not only the single worldwide medical examiner system, but it also supports the entire U.S. federal government.
“Every day we are working to identify and return our fallen heroes to their families,” Dr. McMahon said. “Last year, 166 missing service members were identified and returned to their loved ones.”
The names of 73 U.S. service members who have been identified and returned to their loved ones so far this year were read at Friday’s ceremony.
That is only the beginning, Dr. McMahon said.
“By the end of the year, we’re expecting 75 other families to get notified that their missing loved ones are coming home.”
It was a day of reflection at Dover Air Force Base.
Airmen at Dover AFB gave a 24-hour salute to the more than 81,000 service members that remain missing and unaccounted for on Thursday and Friday.
The 24-hour ruck began at 2:30 p.m. Thursday at the base track and continued until Friday afternoon.
A minimum of two members continuously walked the track while wearing dog tags adorned with the names, grade and service information of the fallen, while keeping the American and POW flags moving the entire time.
The flags were taken to the base of the 436th Airlift Wing flagpole in time for the ceremony.
The ceremony included a 50-person formation, the playing of “Taps,” the reading of the names of all 73 repatriated personnel from the past year, and the lowering and ceremonial folding of the U.S. flag.
The White House also released a proclamation regarding National POW/MIA Recognition Day.
“On National POW/MIA Recognition Day, we honor the devotion and courage of all those missing and unaccounted for, renew our commitments to their families, and promise to never cease in our efforts to bring them home,” President Joe Biden said. “On this day, may we recommit to our search efforts for all those missing and unaccounted for, as well as our support for their families.
“May we honor the remarkable bravery, sacrifice and commitment to service of former prisoners of war. And may we continue to keep the flame of liberty burning bright and continue working toward a more perfect union for which our service members sacrifice so much.”
Staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at 302-741-8230 or email@example.com. Follow @MikeFinneyDSN on X/formerlyTwitter.