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Unforgotten Heroes: Osan honors POW/MIA Day

Colonel John Gonzales, 51st Fighter Wing commander, provides remarks during a POW/MIA Recognition ceremony at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Sept. 16, 2020. The POW/MIA Recognition Day serves as a symbol of the nation’s concern and commitment to resolving the fates of prisoners, missing, or those unaccounted for following World War II and the conflicts that followed. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Denise Jenson)

Colonel John Gonzales, 51st Fighter Wing commander, provides remarks during a POW/MIA Recognition ceremony at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Sept. 16, 2020. The POW/MIA Recognition Day serves as a symbol of the nation’s concern and commitment to resolving the fates of prisoners, missing, or those unaccounted for following World War II and the conflicts that followed. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Denise Jenson)

Colonel John Gonzales, 51st Fighter Wing commander, salutes a commemorative brick during a POW/MIA Recognition Day ceremony at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Sept. 16, 2020. The brick was dedicated to 1st Lt. Jacob Harrison, a pilot with the 25th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, who was declared missing in action after his aircraft was shot down over the Pacific Ocean during the Korean War. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Denise Jenson)

Colonel John Gonzales, 51st Fighter Wing commander, salutes a commemorative brick during a POW/MIA Recognition Day ceremony at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Sept. 16, 2020. The brick was dedicated to 1st Lt. Jacob Harrison, a pilot with the 25th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, who was declared missing in action after his aircraft was shot down over the Pacific Ocean during the Korean War. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Denise Jenson)

Ceremony participants look at commemorative bricks of a POW/MIA memorial during a POW/MIA Recognition Day ceremony at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Sept. 16, 2020. Each brick has the name, unit and date the servicemember was declared POW/MIA during the Korean War, and serves as a reminder to passersby that they will never be forgotten. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Denise Jenson)

Ceremony participants look at commemorative bricks of a POW/MIA memorial during a POW/MIA Recognition Day ceremony at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Sept. 16, 2020. Each brick has the name, unit and date the servicemember was declared POW/MIA during the Korean War, and serves as a reminder to passersby that they will never be forgotten. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Denise Jenson)

A commemorative brick is set on display during a POW/MIA Recognition Day ceremony at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Sept. 16, 2020. The brick was dedicated to 1st Lt. Jacob Harrison, a pilot with the 25th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, who was declared missing in action after his aircraft was shot down over the Pacific Ocean during the Korean War. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Denise Jenson)

A commemorative brick is set on display during a POW/MIA Recognition Day ceremony at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, Sept. 16, 2020. The brick was dedicated to 1st Lt. Jacob Harrison, a pilot with the 25th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, who was declared missing in action after his aircraft was shot down over the Pacific Ocean during the Korean War. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Denise Jenson)

OSAN AIR BASE, Republic of Korea --

Team Osan commemorated our nation’s prisoners of war and those missing in action during a POW/MIA Memorial ceremony on base, Sept. 16, 2020.

Indebted to these heroes’ protection of our freedoms and way of life, participants laid engraved bricks in their honor.

“Each year, on the third Friday in September, our nation commemorates National POW/MIA Recognition Day,” said Kelly McKeague, Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency Director. “In doing so, we pay particular tribute to those courageous service members and federal civilians who were imprisoned after they answered the call to duty. In facing inconceivable hardships and extreme suffering, they persevered with inordinate faith and resilience to return home with honor.”

Congress first officially recognized POW/MIA Recognition Day in 1979, but the family members of those POW/MIAs were honoring their sacrifice years before.

“The day also raises awareness of the tens of thousands of heroes who answered the call to duty, and tragically have yet to return home,” McKeague added. “From World War II through Operation Iraqi Freedom, they number over 81,000. They made the supreme sacrifice for their nation, but their families are burdened with both the grief of their loss and the inherent uncertainty.”

Currently, there are 81,000 Americans unaccounted for from World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, the Gulf Wars, and recent conflicts, with 75 percent of those gone missing (41,000) somewhere in the Pacific and assumed lost at sea.

“507 American remains from the Korean War have been identified and accounted for since 1982,” said Col. John Gonzales, 51st Fighter Wing commander. "In June of this year, six American remains from the Korean War were repatriated at Osan. These continued efforts to find our fellow Americans further solidify our commitment to bringing them home."