On Friday, Sept. 20 beginning at 7 p.m., the Hampstead American Legion located at 4600 Legion Lane, Hampstead, Md., will be holding a Candlelight Vigil in observance of National POW/MIA Recognition Day to remember those whose fate is unknown; those listed as Prisoners of War or Missing in Action. The Legion, Auxiliary, Sons of the American Legion and Legion Riders will all participate in this ceremony. It will be held in the new pavilion which is dedicated to our country’s POW/MIAs.
First observed on July 18, 1979, this recognition day was then held on various days in the following years. This important observance is now held on the 3rd Friday of each September. We owe it to those who went to defend our country and never returned to do something to honor and memorialize them.
The evening will begin with the presentation of colors, followed by a “table ceremony” where a table will be set for one with items symbolizing that members of our armed forces are missing from our ranks. As each item is put on the table, someone will explain the meaning.
Candles will be handed out to all in attendance and lit as the names of some of those Marylanders who are POW/MIAs from the Korean War are read. Last year’s ceremony focused on those still missing from the Vietnam War. Records show approximately 80,000 missing from World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War, the Vietnam War and the Gulf Wars. JPAC (Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command) and the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory (AFDIL) work diligently to recover the remains of those lost, and are continuing to return remains to families from all the wars as far back as World War II. In the identification of the remains, scientists use circumstantial evidence, compiled by DPMO (Department of Defense POW/Missing Personal Office) and JPAC researchers, and forensic identification tools such as mitochondrial DNA. A mitochondrial DNA test is used to determine whether two or more people are related through their maternal lineage. Mitochondrial DNA passes without change (except for rare mutations) from mother to all children, sons and daughters, but only daughters pass it to the next generation. Thus, individuals who share the same maternal line will have the same mitochondrial DNA. Mitochondrial DNA tests can help in establishing biological relationships between people in an extended family, like maternal half-siblings, cousins, etc. So in determining identity, siblings and cousins are sometimes tested.
The evening will conclude with the playing of “Taps.”