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Vigil marks 22nd year of advocating for POW/MIA soldiers



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Members of Belmont’s Boy Scout Troop 65 hold a banner at the POW/MIA Vigil held at Hesky Park in Meredith last Thursday evening. The scouts also participated as members of the Honor Guard around the flagpole with representatives from all branches of the Armed Services before a large gathering of veterans, families and motorcyclists. Donna Rhodes. (click for larger version)

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Members of Belmont’s Boy Scout Troop 65 hold a banner at the POW/MIA Vigil held at Hesky Park in Meredith last Thursday evening. The scouts also participated as members of the Honor Guard around the flagpole with representatives from all branches of the Armed Services before a large gathering of veterans, families and motorcyclists. Donna Rhodes. (click for larger version)
June 23, 2010
MEREDITH — POW/MIA supporters on foot and on bikes gathered for the annual Freedom Ride and vigil in Hesky Park Thursday.

A procession of motorcyclists and other vehicles started at Lowe's in Gilford to begin the 17th annual Freedom Ride to Hesky Park in Meredith. The procession stopped at Hesky Park for a ceremony in honor of POW/MIA's in front of the "The Rock" that has been declared New Hampshire's Original POW/MIA monument.

Don Amorosi of the Northeast POW/MIA Network told the large crowd of veterans, service people, and families on hand last Thursday that live sightings of men and women missing in action around the world have been reported, but 95 percent of those reports are being denied by the U.S. government.

"Since 1996 over 40 South Korean soldiers have escaped captivity in North Korea and returned home. If they can do it, so can we," he said.

Amorosi urged people to spread the word about prisoners of war and those missing in action and asked them to continue to do all they can to carry a message to Washington that they be found and returned home.

Speaker Karen Thurston, chapter president of the Blue Star Mothers of New Hampshire, said those who serve our nation are prepared to die but not to be abandoned. Thurston urged everyone to contact their local and national representatives about service men and women missing or captured and, if from another state, to urge their government to reinstate the terminology of POW/MIA where they live.

Nationally the terminology was changed during the recent war in the Middle East from POW and MIA to "Missing/Captured" or "Duty Status Whereabouts Unknown." Bob Jones, a physician's assistant at VetLink in Laconia and one of the founders of the park and weekly vigils, has maintained that this designation by the government strips a soldier of his rights under the Geneva Convention.

"What are they? Missing or captured?" Jones said.

State leaders in Concord heard Jones and his fellow veterans loud and clear last year and signed a bill in support of their message. New Hampshire is the first state to officially declare the terms POW or MIA to be the only recognizable descriptions for those unaccounted for in war and conflicts. To date, six soldiers are still missing from the Vietnam War, while the remains of two others were identified and returned to the U.S. for burial. Two men are currently listed as Missing/Captured, one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, according to a March 2010 status report from the U.S and Coalition found on CNN.

Jones addressed the crowd briefly during the vigil, saying there was still a lot of work to be done. Wearing a patch or riding in processions like the Freedom Ride were good ways to show some support, but not enough.

"Faith, trust, and truth is the basis of all we work on. We have to protect our sons and daughters," Jones said.

He urged people to stay involved in issues regarding POWs and MIAs by pushing the government to take positive action in support of the troops and those missing or captured.

The evening was highlighted by a fly over of a military refueling jet, which appeared over Lake Winnipesaukee and made its way toward Hesky Park as onlookers stood at silent attention as it passed overhead.

Many of those in attendance were long standing participants of the event who lingered to chat with fellow veterans and familiar faces from years past.

Al Blais was born and raised in Laconia but now lives in Massachusetts where he is a state representative and a member of the Combat Vets Motorcycle Association. He said he has been coming to the Bike Week vigil every year.

"My dad was a WWII vet, and I was in the military for 27 years. The issue of POW/MIA's is very important to me," Blais said.

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