Rourke ’07 is front and center at POW-MIA national ceremonies

When National POW/MIA Recognition Day is observed on Friday, Sept. 19, Lacy Rourke ’07 will be a strong voice among the ceremonies. Rourke, who lives in Washington, D.C., and received Ripon College’s Outstanding Young Alumni award earlier this year, is a special consultant for the Vietnam War 50th Commemoration.

“The commemoration was chartered by the U.S. Congress to help support groups honoring returned prisoners of war, the hundreds of individuals who are still unaccounted for from the war and their families,” Rourke says.

National POW/MIA Recognition Day was started in the mid-1980s and is held on the third Friday in September to recognize returned POWs of all wars and to bring awareness to the fact that the United States still has people who are unaccounted for, Rourke says.

“The President releases a proclamation each year, so it’s something that is recognized from the top level down,” Rourke says. “I usually speak at a few different events on that day. There are one or two events locally in the northern Virginia area, and I attend the Pentagon ceremony at the National Air Force Memorial. Then there is usually an event in the evening.”

The next day, she will speak at a War Memorial ceremony in Richmond, Virginia.

Missing servicemen and women is an issue that should concern all Americans, Rourke says. “It’s something that still affects our servicemen and women today,” she says. “At any given moment, a serviceman or woman can be taken prisoner. Every one of us should be concerned that they come home. These are not just people from previous generations. It could be a son or daughter of a neighbor or somebody that we work with. We just never know.”

Rourke has been interested in the MIA/POW issue since she was a child and read memoirs of returning veterans from earlier wars. “I’ve always felt like people need to be remembered when they’re gone,” she says. “For those who are still unaccounted for, they’ve never gotten an end to their story. The accounting issue is giving them that, and an ending for their families, too.”

She says many local organizations such as Veterans of Foreign Wars and the American Legion hold local ceremonies, and people can check with them to see what is available.

“This is about people being educated,” she says. “This is an ongoing issue for many people and could potentially be an issue for our generation and for future generations. National POW/MIA Recognition Day helps to remind people that these stories of missing servicemen and women are still out there.”

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