Taunton — They won’t stop until every soldier is accounted for.
The Taunton Area Vietnam Veteran’s Association held its 29th annual POW/MIA Remembrance Ceremony at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Church Green Sunday at noon. Nearly 100 veterans, politicians, students and community residents paid tribute to those who served in Vietnam and most notably those who never came back.
Bob Silvia, the president of the Vietnam veterans group, gave opening remarks and stressed how crucial it is for the government to fund the recovery and return of missing service members.
“Our MIAs are scattered all over southeast Asia, South Vietnam, North Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and even off the coast of China,” Silvia said. “They are waiting to be found and it is up to us to make sure that our government continues to fund research teams each year to look for and recover the remains of our POWs.”
The group said there are 39 Prisoners Of War and Missing In Action soldiers from Massachusetts, and a total of 1,699 missing service members in southeast Asia.
Taunton Area Vietnam Veterans Association Chaplain Chip Metzger delivered a prayer for the Prisoners Of War and the Missing In Action.
“Father, known to you are the whereabouts of our brothers, who have been waiting so long to be returned home,” Metzger said. “We ask thee Father thy blessings to be upon the leaders of this great nation that they do all in their power to bring them back home to the land that they served with honor, the land of their birth.”
After several speeches, poems and the ceremonial releasing of doves and homing pigeons, members of the crowd took symbolic dog tags with the names of the missing, read out the names and hung up the tags together on a post.
Bill Desmarais, of the Marine Corps League and on behalf of the American Racing Pigeon Union, explained the meaning behind the doves and homing pigeons.
“We will send to the heavens the Marine Corps League’s doves of peace, representing what every veteran has fought for: Peace,” Desmarais said. “The doves of peace will be joined on their heavenward journey by squads of multi-colored homing pigeons representative of the many races and cultures that have served and sacrificed for freedom.”
Desmarais added that the homing pigeons were significant because they were used by U.S. forces during combat throughout the years, helping to save the lives of civilians and military personnel.
Taunton Mayor Charles Crowley said he was very proud of the annual POW/MIA Remembrance Day and the city’s history of honoring Vietnam veterans.
“Here in Taunton we dare to be different,” Crowley said. “We’ve always been in strong support of our veterans throughout the generations, especially here during the 1960s when it was at the time a very unpopular war.”
Crowley recounted how the Vietnam Memorial in Taunton was dedicated on Oct. 20, 1968, when 2,000 residents got together on the Church Green for the unveiling of the memorial tablet.
“(More than) 2,000 citizens joined here amid a light rain to pay tribute and dedicate this tablet,” Crowley said.
He said the ceremony was attended by the parents of William Murphy, the very first soldier who died in the Vietnam War.
Speeches were also made by state Sen. Marc Pacheco, D-Taunton; state Rep. Shaunna O’Connell, R-Taunton; U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass.; U.S. Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass.; and U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, D-Newton.
Jane Van Gyzen, a Gold Star Mother and stepmother of Lance Corporal John Van Gyzen IV who died in Iraq in 2004, read a poem called “Remember Me.”
“‘Remember me with smiles and laughter for that is how I will remember you,’” said Van Gyzen, who was recently made an honorary veteran of the Taunton Area Vietnam Veterans Association. “‘If you only remember me with tears and sorrow then don’t remember me at all.’ Our brave soldiers will be remembered for their love of life and their love for their country.”
Dennis Proulx, vice president of the Taunton Area Vietnam Veterans Association, updated the crowd on the latest information on the cause of MIAs and POWs.
Proulx said of the 1,699 missing, there are 477 in South Vietnam, 824 in North Vietnam, 332 in Laos, 59 in Cambodia and seven off the coast of mainland China.
Proulx said although the event focuses on the lost from U.S. operations in Vietnam, the group also remembers the missing from previous wars.
“There are 8,005 still missing from the Korean War,” he said. “And there are 74,064 missing from World War II. That’s a lot of servicemen.”
Proulx said those interested in the cause to recover the missing can find more information at the military website, www.jpac.pacom.mil. Contact Marc Larocque at firstname.lastname@example.org