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Team Vance honors POW/MIA Recognition Day with 24-hour ruck march

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Christian Soto
  • 71st Flying Training Wing Public Affairs

VANCE AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. – “The POW flag did not stop moving for the whole 24 hours,” said Senior Airman Ashaley Mejia, organizer of the Team Vance ruck march around the base track, in honor of National POW/MIA Recognition Day, Sept. 15.

The day served as a tribute honoring the bravery and sacrifice of those who endured captivity and eventually came home, and the spirit of those who remain unaccounted for from past conflicts.

The ruck march started at midnight, Sept. 14, and lasted until midnight, Sept. 15, marking the 43rd anniversary of POW/MIA Recognition Day.

Mejia, a supply manager for the 71st Security Forces Squadron, coordinated the event. She reminded the volunteer participants, that ruck marches are challenging.

“You will likely get tired after marching for an hour,” said Mejia. “However, what you signed up for is miniscule compared to what POWs went through. This is the least we can do.”

One of the marchers was Airman 1st Class Christopher Ornelas Jr., with the 71st Flying Training Wing Public Affairs Office. His motivation to participate in the 24-hour ruck resonated deeply with him and held significance for his family.

“On May 31, 2005, my great grandmother was presented an American flag for her brother, Army Pfc. Francisco Olguin Jr., who was considered missing in action for 63 years. I was 8 years old at the time. I didn’t know the whole story,” said Ornelas.

“I just remember my great grandmother weeping as she was given a flag by an Army Honor Guard member,” said Ornelas. “I consider my family lucky in this respect. There are still far too many service members who were never laid to rest in their family's arms.

“While there remain countless lives that are unaccounted for, they will never be forgotten,” said Ornelas.