Members of Ramstein Air Base came together at the Ramstein Officers’ Club for a luncheon and wreath laying ceremony to observe National Prisoners Of War/Missing In Action Recognition Day on Sept. 15.
National POW/MIA Recognition Day is observed on the third Friday of September each year and, though first recognized in 1979, the observance was established under the 1998 Defense Authorization Act.
While attending the luncheon, retired Air Force Col. Kenneth Cordier, a former Vietnam prisoner of war (1966 to 1973), addressed the audience about his days as a former POW.
“I was a prisoner for 2,284 days,” said Cordier. “During that time we were treated harshly. The one thing that got me through was my faith. My faith in God, my faith in my fellow prisoners, and my faith in my country.”
After his homecoming, he continued to serve 12 more years. He retired and held positions in multiple veteran and POW/MIA organizations. Cordier explained what it’s like for him to attend POW/MIA events.
“It’s difficult for me, at these events, to embrace and absorb that I’m part of the group being recognized, to realize I’m part of the focus,” said Cordier. “There was very little publicity for POW/MIAs when we were released in 1973. Since 9/11, there has been a lot more visibility.”
With increased visibility of the POW/MIAs over the years, military members have acknowledged the significance of remembering them and what they gave for freedom.
“It’s important that we take this unique opportunity to gather everyone and (honor) our POW/MIAs,” said Senior Master Sgt. Robert Ybay, 1st Combat Communications Squadron cyber transport systems flight chief. “I think it was best said by the commander during the POW/MIA Memorial Run earlier this week, ‘Be glad you can run in the rain to exercise your freedom.’”
During POW/MIA Recognition Week, Cordier visited different units on Ramstein. Airmen who met him were left with a purpose. That purpose is to carry the torch and never let America forget our POW/MIA personnel, explained Col. Matthew Villella, 435th Air Ground Operations Wing and 435th Air Expeditionary Wing vice commander.
“Our Airmen are committed to our creed to never leave an Airman behind, and our quest to never forget,” said Villella. “You are not forgotten!”