(MCT) PROPHETSTOWN – Korean War Veteran Don Blair doesn’t like to talk about the war too much.
The former Air Force pilot put it simply before his eyes started to water: “I had a lot of buddies who died. Imagine going to breakfast with two of them in the morning, and knowing one of them won’t be coming back.”
Still, the 81-year-old Morrison man was instrumental in bringing the POW/MIA ceremony to Prophetstown Sunday, said Alan Posey, commander of the Prophetstown American Legion.
“It brings back memories
of what happened,” said
Blair, who also brought the ceremony to Rock Falls last year. He’s a lifelong member of the VFW in suburban Lombard, where the ceremonies are common. “We must never forget.”
The POW/MIA ceremony was conducted at the Legion Hall, where the Illinois Patriot Guard Fallen Heroes Traveling Memorial Wall was on display.
The wall, initiated by Gold Star families and the Riders, pays tribute to Illinois military members who gave their lives in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation New Dawn.
It served as a final and ongoing chapter for Sunday’s ceremony.
Army warrant officer and Vietnam pilot Dennis Keith Eads, a 1966 graduate of Erie High School and former Prophetstown resident, is among the missing.
Eads went missing when his helicopter went down in April 1970 during a rescue mission in Quang Nam.
Former classmate Patricia Meier, 65, said Eads always is honored at class reunions.
She attended Sunday’s ceremony because she and her husband Frank, who is American Legion commander in Erie, believe it is important to continue to honor those who have served the country, especially those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
“He was a nice guy, very quiet,” Meier said Sunday as she strolled past the wall of fallen heroes. “He won’t be forgotten.”
An empty table was set and reserved for prisoners of war and those missing in action, with a hat placed at each of the six seats representing each branch of service.
The white table cloth symbolized purity; a single red rose with a red ribbon tied around it was a reminder of family; a lighted candle represented their unconquerable spirit, a lemon their bitter fate, and salt the tears shed. Their glasses were inverted because “they cannot toast with us this night.”
A toast of water was shared in hopes the missing someday would be found and reunited with family.
Guest speaker Scott Haugh, commander of the American Legion 13th District, said efforts continue to find the missing and give families closure.
Since World War II, 83,400 service members have gone missing or were taken prisoners of war.
“Call your representatives, continue to support this effort to find them,” Haugh said. “They must not be forgotten.”
A similar POW/MIA ceremony will be hosted by the Erie American Legion within the next year.
The traveling wall, which bears the names, portraits, hometowns, ranks and dates of death of each service member, also will be on display Oct. 5 and 6 in Oregon, during the annual Autumn on Parade festival.
Admission is free; donations are appreciated.
Go to www.ilpgmemorialwall.com for more information.
©2013 the Daily Gazette (Sterling, Ill.)
Distributed by MCT Information Services