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Leaders Honor Missing, Captured Service Members, Families

Compliments of: Written By Karen Parrish

The Defense Department will never stop working to bring captured and missing service members home, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, pledged at a Pentagon ceremony today.

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Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel greets former prisoners of war following a ceremony to remember POWs and service members missing in action at the Pentagon, Sept. 20, 2013. DOD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

That commitment extends to Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, who was captured by enemy forces in Afghanistan more than four years ago, Hagel said.

“Our hearts today are with the Bergdahl family. Using our military, intelligence, and diplomatic tools, the United States is continuing its strong efforts to secure Sergeant Bergdahl’s safe release,” he said.

DOD’s commitment to leave no service member behind also extends to the more than 80,000 Americans who remain missing in action, the secretary said.

Hagel noted this year marked the 40th anniversary of Operation Homecoming, when hundreds of American prisoners of war returned to freedom from captivity in Vietnam. Retired Navy Rear Adm. Robert H. Shumaker, in the audience for today’s ceremony, was one of those prisoners, the secretary said.

“He, along with hundreds of other service members and civilians, endured unspeakable cruelty, attempts at political exploitation, and years of confinement,” Hagel said. “But through courage, resilience, and determination, they survived to return home to a grateful nation.”

The secretary said he admires the inner strength that enabled prisoners of war to survive harsh physical and mental abuse at the hands of their captors.

“Americans in uniform today are inspired by the fierce resolve of generations of American POWs,” Hagel said. “We also draw inspiration from the bonds of camaraderie, compassion, and love that prompted our POWs to care for each other, and sustain each other, through terrible, terrible months and years of hardship.”

Such bonds are fundamental to the American military and underpin “who we are and everything we do,” he said. “We protect each other. And we vow to never leave a fellow service member behind.”

Every day, Hagel said, hundreds of DOD staffers, including forensic anthropologists, underwater archeologists and other experts, scour the globe and work in laboratories to identify the missing.

“Since this time last year we have been able to account for 61 service members from World War II, Korea, and Vietnam,” the secretary noted. “Each case represents years of effort — meticulous work piecing together evidence and clues from across many continents.”

Hagel said he’s deeply aware that many thousands of families are still waiting for a breakthrough.

“Words and promises cannot make the lingering uncertainty and heartache go away,” he said. “But I hope it provides comfort to know that as long as members of our armed forces remain unaccounted for, the Department of Defense will do whatever we can to find them and bring them home.”

Hagel said that as the black-and-white flag honoring America’s prisoners of war and missing in action is raised in communities across America today, “We pledge to live by its creed, ‘You are Not Forgotten.’ We as a country are committed to our former POWs, our missing, and their families, … just as we are committed to those who wear the uniform today.”

The POW/MIA flag is a symbol and a call to action, Dempsey said.

“For wherever our missing lie, wherever a prisoner waits, we will remain committed to freeing them,” he said.

More families deserve closure, the chairman said. “More of those who’ve worn our nation’s cloth deserve to come home,” he added.

Dempsey said the department will not rest or “call our mission complete, until our family is whole again.”

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About Edited by Susan Bainbridge

At age 6, Susan was destined to be a journalist and photographer.  In 1980, Susan founded Bainbridge News and The Bainbridge Chronicle Newspaper. Bainbridge News specializes in Military and National Politics, including Military Funerals and Burials and Political Funerals and Burials.  Susan has covered the White House, the Pentagon and Capitol Hill. She has covered every president from Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama. Recognized for her versatility, Susan has also covered finance, crime, civil rights events, marches, sports, musical events and more. In 1990, she established Bainbridge Photography, an On-Location photography company. In addition to military and political events, including Military and Political funerals and burials, Bainbridge Photography expanded into covering ALL funerals and burials, receptions, weddings, real estate, inventory, insurance, portrait, head shot, pets, fire and Hazmat.  Miss Bainbridge believes in going the extra mile. "My Clients always come first." In 1980, Susan began her career in Washington, D.C., working for WMZQ Radio as a reporter and guest hostess from 1980 to 1985. Intrigued by radio, Susan wanted to write, freelancing for radio, television and print newspapers, including AP, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, The Northern Virginia Sun, The Press-Republican and The Bainbridge Chronicle (established by Susan Bainbridge). In 1986, Susan worked at WDCA-TV Channel 20 as a guest hostess for "Eye On Washington." From 1990 to 1994, Susan reported and anchored for "The Arlington Weekly News." Additionally, she produced a segment for the G. Gordon Liddy Radio Show. A prolific writer, while in high school in 1977, Bainbridge wrote an episode for NBC's "Little House on The Prairie" entitled "Laura's Best Friend." Though the show's producers did not use the script then, NBC producers encouraged Susan to pursue a writing and journalism career. Susan is a member of the National Press Club, the National Press Photographer's Association and the Society of Professional Journalists. Susan Bainbridge's recognitions include from former Presidents Ronald Reagan, George Herbert Walker Bush and Bill Clinton, former First Lady Nancy Reagan, former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the late actor Lorne Greene, among many others. BAINBRIDGE NEWS was founded in 1980 by Susan Bainbridge (a sixth generation writer), a third generation journalist, a first generation photographer and a fourth generation entrepreneur. She is the first generation to establish a news business. Bainbridge News is dedicated in honor of Miss Bainbridge's late grandfather and idol, Mark S. Watson (The Baltimore Sun editor and war correspondent from 1920 to his death in 1966).

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