GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
Goodfellow hosted a 24-hour run, starting Oct. 26, to honor past and present prisoners of war and military members missing in action.
The ceremony began with the posting of the colors, including the POW/MIA flag, singing of the National Anthem and speeches from Col. Ricky Mills, 17th Training Wing commander, and Chief Master Sgt. Lavor Kirkpatrick, 17th TRW command chief.
“I want to specifically thank the runners for what I believe is going above and beyond,” said Kirkpatrick. “They said that they are going to dedicate the next 24 hours to help us carry the baton as we continue to carry the legacy and remember our POWs and those missing in action.”
Kirkpatrick shared his experience meeting individuals that had spent time as prisoners of war. He spent time with John McCain, who was a Navy pilot during the Vietnam War. Hostiles shot down his plane over Hanoi, Vietnam Oct. 26, 1967. McCain was a prisoner of war for six years.
“He was passionate about those in the profession of arms,” said Kirkpatrick. “He wanted nothing more than to take care of his brothers and sisters in arms. He dedicated his life to those who wore the uniform.”
Kirkpatrick met with retired Capt. Bill Robinson, the longest-held American enlisted prisoner of war. North Vietnam soldiers captured Robinson on Sept. 20, 1965. The U.S. military classified Robinson as missing in action for three and a half years, until the North Vietnamese government acknowledged him as a prisoner of war. He would spend seven years in their custody.
“They have paved the way before us and this moment is an opportunity where we get to thank them,” said Kirkpatrick. “It’s not about the numbers; I don’t want you to think about POW/MIA as just large numbers of people that went missing. They are people who had families. They are brothers, sisters, sons and daughters of our family.
“When we run today, when we run with the baton, when we run for 24 hours, we are recognizing that our family is incomplete. Not everybody is home. We will remember them every day until every single member of our family is back.”
Mills also shared his thoughts and memories of those who are POW/MIA.
“Hopefully by remembering and by honoring all of those before us, you have a heightened sense or are inspired to a heightened sense of patriotism and service by doing this and by being here today, so thank you,” said Mills.
“Because that's why we do this. It is as it says right there, so they won't be forgotten, so that they will be remembered. They will be honored and we will continue to do the things that we have to do,” Mills concluded.
Mills and Kirkpatrick began the run with the baton in hand. Individuals carried the baton for the next 24 hours, passing it to others while running to ensure that it didn’t stop moving.
“We are indebted to their families who stood by with courage and resilience as those they love answered their call to service,” said Senior Airman Ian Crase, 17th Civil Engineer Squadron emergency management journeyman. “These families have persevered for decades to the uncertainty of their service members return and continue to wait, and we will wait with them.”