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Inaugural recognition of POW/MIA held in Manchester

Employees and special guests at the POW/MIA recognition ceremony with the "missing man table."
Employees and special guests at the POW/MIA recognition ceremony with the “missing man table.”

National POW/MIA Recognition Day was held across the country on Sept. 20.

Following its enactment in 1979, U.S. Congress passed a resolution authorizing National POW/MIA Recognition Day’s official observance on July 18, but the date varied. In 1986, it was permanently moved for national recognition to the third Friday in September. The city of Manchester had its inaugural recognition ceremony at the Veterans Memorial at Margaret Stoecker Park on Sept. 20.

Manchester officially was recognized as a POW/MIA City during its regular Board of Aldermen meeting on May 20. The designation is given by Jefferson Barracks POW/MIA Museum, Inc. to cities that honor and recognize individuals who have served the United States in any branch of the country’s military and who were captured by enemies of the United States or who are missing in action from any year and any conflict.

At the event, a “missing man table” [also known as a “fallen comrade table”] served as a visual reminder of the thousands of missing veterans. Each item atop the table is symbolic, such as a lighted candle reflecting hope for a safe return and a white tablecloth symbolizing the pure motives held by each individual upon answering the call to duty.

Following a trumpet rendition of “Taps” by Manchester Community Band Director Chris Becker, City Clerk Ruth Baker presented the proclamation of remembrance by honoring all our nation’s prisoners of war and expressing the community’s “sincere gratitude for their courage and determination during their imprisonment while they were enduring terrible hardships.” Baker also said, “We also honor and pledge never to forget those who never returned from the battlefields and are still missing and unaccounted for.”

Three POW/MIAs with Manchester connections were honored at the presentation as well. They are Carl Raymond Davis [Vietnam], Dean Wesley Reiter [Vietnam] and Joseph Vaughn Murray [World War II].

Manchester resident Bob Whaley, a former Vietnam veteran who served 23 years active duty in the U.S. Army, attended the ceremony to honor his father, Maj. Elwin Whaley.

The elder Whaley, who worked as a U.S. Army advisor for South Korea, was captured in February 1951 after his base was overtaken by North Korea. He was sent to the interrogation facility, where he was declared dead in May 1951. It was confirmed that his body was buried on-site, but never recovered. This makes him one of the 7,700 soldiers considered MIA from the Korean War.

Additionally, there are an estimated 1,600 Americans still missing from the Vietnam War, more than 120 from the Cold War, and almost 73,000 from World War II.

Having lost his father at age 6, Whaley sought to follow in his father’s footsteps by entering the military. After his first tour in the Vietnam War, he was wounded and spent the rest of his enlistment in the Army Corps.

However, Whaley has not strayed far from his military roots. Today, he travels to Washington, D.C., annually to attend the two-day briefing on the military accounting of missing soldiers. Whaley also supported the POW/MIA Museum at Jefferson Barracks during its renovation and restoration and attends Vietnam reunions.

Of the inaugural recognition, Whaley said, “This is an important event. It makes sure people are reminded of the sacrifices made by the soldiers.”  

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