By Rebecca Jones, special to the News-Times
CARTERET COUNTY — Memorial Day officially became a federal holiday in 1971 as it commemorates U.S. citizens who have died in the service of the country.
It is also a day to remember the POWs and MIAs. In 2016, an empty chair was authorized by Congress in legislation that directed the Architect of the Capitol to obtain an appropriate chair featuring the POW/MIA symbol and place it in a permanent location in the U.S. Capitol.
To date, North Carolina has 1,895 soldiers listed as Missing in Action and covers those who served in World War I, World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Their families remind us that none of us would be who we are or have what we have if not for the strengths and sacrifices of others. Most of us enjoy lives of relative freedom. Our freedom has come at enormous cost, the price paid by those who gave their all while serving their country, states and communities, with each being a beloved member of our global family.
American Legion Post 99 in Beaufort is an organization “to enhance the well-being of America’s veterans, their families, our military and our communities by our devotion to mutual helpfulness.”
At every meeting, there is a meal for the members and guests. In the corner sits a POW/MIA empty chair. This chair has a special meaning and is acknowledged by this saying: “A POW/MIA empty chair is placed at all official meetings of The American Legion as a physical symbol of the thousands of American POW/MIAs still unaccounted for from all wars and conflicts involving the United States of America. This is a reminder for all of us to spare no effort to secure the release of any American prisoners from captivity, the repatriation of the remains of those who died bravely in defense of liberty, and a full accounting of those missing. Let us rededicate ourselves to this vital endeavor.”
We ask a lot of those who wear the uniform to leave their loved ones, to travel great distances, to risk injury, even to be prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice of their lives. They are dedicated. They are honorable. They represent the best of our country, and we are grateful. These fallen heroes represent the character of a nation who has a long history of patriotism and honor – and a nation that has fought many battles to keep our country free from threats of terror.
A reminder this Memorial Day: Our flag does not fly because the wind moves it. It flies with the last breath of each soldier who died protecting it. Thank you so much to all the servicemen and women who have gone above and beyond protecting our country.