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24-hour vigil run at JBSA-Lackland honors POWs, MIAs

  • Published
  • By Mike Joseph
  • JBSA-Lackland Public Affairs
The black and white colors on the POW/MIA flags reflected the somberness of the occasion. The gaunt, black silhouette on a white background, framed by a guard tower and barbed wire, created a lasting impression; but, it was the bold white letters imprinted above and below the images that said it all: "Until They Are Home," and "You Are Not Forgotten."

About 8,000 service members, Air Force basic trainees and civilians honored Americans held as prisoners of war, and those still missing in action by participating in the 37th Training Wing's fourth annual POW/MIA 24-hour vigil run Sept. 20-21 on eight tracks on Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland.

The event, which coincides with National POW/MIA Recognition Day, began Sept. 20 at 8 a.m. with the graduating basic trainees' Airman's Run, and continued for the next 24 hours on the tracks at JBSA-Lackland and one additional track at JBSA-Fort Sam Houston, home to the 37th TRW's 937th Training Group.

Running in shifts, a designated runner on each track carried a black POW/MIA baton. As the runner's shift ended, the baton was relayed to another runner. The rotation continued until the 24-hour run was completed Sept. 21. Nine POWs were each presented with a baton during a ceremony at the Gateway Club.

The run honors America's prisoners of war and those still missing in action since World War II. The Department of Defense lists 81,864 service members missing in action, including more than 74,000 from World War II. Those names were read aloud at each running venue.

Runners wore black T-shirts embossed with the nationally recognized POW/MIA emblem. Selling at $10 apiece, the T-shirts were designed by Tech. Sgt. Pedro Pena, a 323rd Training Squadron training NCO, and worn by runners as part of a Combined Federal Campaign fundraiser. Proceeds from the sales exceeded $30,000, and will be donated to the National League of POW/MIA Families.

"All I can do is sit back and smile about all the support and participation," said Tech. Sgt. Justin Cook, 323rd TRS military drill and ceremonies NCO, who coordinated the event for the second straight year. "Since the beginning, four years ago, we've grown a thousand percent. It's all very humbling."

Staff Sgt. Jason Bowers, 37th Training Wing safety office, said running two one-hour shifts was the very least he could do as a tribute to the former POWs and MIAs.

"The vigil run is such a worthwhile cause," said Bowers. "Our nation owes these heroes a great debt of gratitude. Running two hours is the least I can do to honor those warriors who have paid the ultimate price. These men and women have paved the way for me to be where I am today."