Ambassador Kritenbrink Remarks: National POW/MIA Recognition Day

Friday, September 21, 2018
DPAA Detachment 2 Annex, Hanoi

Good afternoon to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency Detachment Two team, and to our friends and colleagues who join us here for this important occasion.

I am truly honored to be with you on National POW/MIA Recognition Day, an annual event during which Americans pause to reflect on the sacrifices of service members who were held captive and returned, but also those who have yet to return home. The Department of Defense remains firmly committed to the fullest possible accounting for those U.S. personnel who are still missing.

The black and white POW/MIA flag, one of the most recognizable symbols of our generation, will fly over our national and state capitals as a poignant reminder to our citizens of the high cost of freedom. To describe the significant symbols in the POW/MIA flag seems the best way to understand its value, but to capture the real meaning of what this flag stands for is priceless. This flag stands for the sacrifices of the people of this great nation that protected our way of life and their loved ones that stood waiting for their return; the PEOPLE, the fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, sons, and daughters of the United States of America.

Today, we acknowledge that while such ceremonial recognition is certainly warranted, simple recognition is insufficient to honor our past warriors. Remembering those, whose earthly remains have not been recovered from foreign lands, is our duty. It is incumbent on us, the beneficiaries of the freedoms for which these brave warriors perished, to make every attempt to return their remains to their families, who have waited with such faithful anticipation these many years – OUR PEOPLE. We as a nation are committed to achieving the fullest possible accounting for our missing and that effort is in full evidence in Vietnam and around the world.

America’s monumental effort to recover our missing from the Vietnam War, as well as from more distant historical conflicts, was unprecedented at its inception. It is now being emulated by countries as diverse as South Korea, Japan, and even Vietnam itself. The universal humanitarian appeal of the professional warrior’s creed to leave no one behind provides us with an opportunity to transcend the tendency to wage war, engendering sincere cooperation among even the bitterest of former enemies. We recognize the effective support from the Vietnamese government, which is crucial to our success, and we are grateful for their partnership in this endeavor.

The accounting mission continues to move steadily forward and remains a key element in our relationship with the Government of Vietnam. I have witnessed the dedication and cooperation between American and Vietnamese teams, partnered in some of the harshest conditions imaginable, to return our fallen. For me, these striking experiences are a vivid reminder of our government’s steadfast commitment to this noble humanitarian mission, which the U.S. Embassy supports in every possible capacity.

As we prepare for the formal portion of today’s ceremony, please reflect on the special sacrifices the missing have made for their country, as well as the sacred duty of our nation to bring home those who truly gave their last full measure of devotion to preserve our nation’s freedoms.

Thank you for being here today.