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Icemen pay homage with a POWMIA Run
U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Mark Kelly, 354th Fighter Wing commander, Mrs. Terry Huisman, founder of The American Legion Riders, and Mr. Dave Lemelin, a Veteran of Foreign Wars member, carries a wreath to the POW/MIA monument at Heritage Park during a POW/MIA retreat ceremony Sept. 14, 2012, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. According to the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office, more than 1,700 Americans are still unaccounted for in the course of the Vietnam War to today. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Lauren-Taylor Garcia)
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Icemen pay homage with POW/MIA Run

Posted 9/21/2012   Updated 9/21/2012 Email story   Print story


by Staff Sgt. Jim Araos
354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

9/21/2012 - EIELSON AIR FORCE BASE, Alaska -- Eielson Active duty, guard and family members came together to honor prisoners of war and those missing in action with a 24-hour relay run beginning Sept. 13, and ending with a retreat ceremony Sept. 14.

Units carried the POW/MIA flag over one hour blocks in teams of at least two people on a 2.4 mile course showcasing the flag and event to passersby.

"[Prisoners of war and those missing in action] didn't go out as a single entity, but as a team to support each other. They sacrificed and paid the price. We should honor them," said Master Sgt. Benito Hibbert, 354th Medical Operations Squadron bioenvironmental engineering flight chief and POW/MIA relay run coordinator.

More than 1,700 Americans are currently unaccounted from the course of the Vietnam War to this present day, according to the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office.

"The entire wing was involved, and I couldn't tell you how many volunteers we have because everyone at some level was engaged," said Hibbert.

A tent was set up and manned by units around base to help runners stay hydrated and warm before and after their run. The commissary donated water, sports drinks and oranges to help keep participants hydrated.

The event started at a temperature of 50 degrees in the evening and dropped down to a low of 27 degrees in the pre-dawn hours. Runners weathered these conditions and continued running the flag, showing true devotion to their comrades.

"It's important to keep that mindset. It would be terrible to be forgotten after sacrificing so much," said Senior Airman Arron Riffle, a contracting specialist with the 354th Contracting Squadron and event participant.

During the last segment of the run, the Freedom Riders, Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, Christian Motorcycle Association and Harley Owners Group escorted the POW/MIA flag to the retreat ceremony at Heritage Park, where the U.S. and state flags were lowered and a wreath was placed at the base POW/MIA memorial. Standing in formation, the Airmen of the 354th Fighter Wing Paid respect to their fellow warfighters while families watched on with their hands over their hearts.

As a complete 24 hours ticked by, one statement stands true -- our comrades are never forgotten.

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