Friday, Sept. 20, was National POW/MIA Recognition Day -- a day to remember and honor the approximately 83,000 members of our Armed Forces who are still missing and unaccounted for.

President Obama described it as a day when we "renew the promise to our heroes, that they never be forgotten... We will never give up the search for those who have gone missing under our country's flag."

The mission of our government and POW/MIA families is to obtain the fullest possible accounting for those who are missing in action; the release of all prisoners of war; and the repatriation of all recoverable remains of those who died in service to our country.

Carrying out this daunting task are investigation and recovery teams comprised of military and civilian specialists who search the battlefields for the remains of American war dead.

Lt. Col. Franklin Childress, of Joint Task Force Full Accounting, reminds us that "behind every statistic is a person and a family waiting for a loved one to be identified."

Col. Childress and others like him continue to search, recover and repatriate our fallen heroes. They are committed to fulfilling our nation's promise: "Whatever it takes, we'll bring them home."

On Friday evening, members of the Townsend VFW held their annual POW/MIA candlelight service on the Town Green. Poems and prayers were read, and the honor roll was called for each of the 39 men from Massachusetts who are still missing.

Beautiful ceremonies like this one keep us connected to those left behind and to all whose sacrifices have made possible the blessings of our freedom.

We will never forget them.

If you are able, save them a place inside of you

and save one backward glance when you are leaving

for the places they can no longer go.

Be not ashamed to say you loved them,

though you may or may not have always.

Take what they have left and what they have taught you with their dying

and keep it with your own.

And in that time when men decide and feel safe to call the war insane,

take one moment to embrace those gentle heroes you left behind.

-- written by Maj. Michael Davis O'Donnell, in Dak To, Vietnam, Jan. 1, 1970.

Missing in action, March 24, 1970; group identification DNA match June 2001.

JULIE WILLIAMS

Pepperell