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Clackamas County resident Steve Bates is a life member of the Associates of Vietnam Veterans of America

When was the last time you thought of those who were prisoners of war or those who are still missing in action?  Can you imagine what it was like being a prisoner? Have you contemplated the lack of closure the families of the missing experience?

Steve BatesYears ago, hundreds of thousands wore POW/MIA bracelets with the name and capture date of our imprisoned military members. Today we rarely talk about our soldiers who were prisoners of war and those who are missing in action.

We need more memorials and remembrances so our citizens do not forget the sacrifices of our heroes and their families. These memorials and remembrances cause our children and grandchildren to ask questions and develop an understanding. Our future generations need to understand the cost of the wars that have been fought.

Most of us are unaware that over 700 Oregonians were prisoners of war during World War I and II. Of that number, 112 were civilians. Almost 200 Oregonians died in captivity since WWI. Of those, 18 died in Korea and three in Vietnam. 

From WWI through Vietnam, 999 Oregonians are still missing in action. There are 21 MIAs during WWI from Oregon, 886 from WWII, 56 from the Korean War, two during the Cold War and 34 from the Vietnam War.  Almost 1,000 Oregon families have been unable to give their loved one an appropriate burial.

In 1979, to honor and remember the missing and prisoners of war, Congress and the president proclaimed the third Friday of every September as POW-MIA Recognition Day with the following statement: "The point of POW/MIA Recognition Day is to ensure that America remembers and shows that it stands behind those who serve, and to make sure the nation does everything it can to account for those who have never returned."

Currently, to remind us of the sacrifices of these American heroes and their families, most public facilities are now flying the POW-MIA flag under the Stars and Stripes.

In 2019, the Oregon Legislature passed a bill declaring Highway 26 the POW-MIA Memorial Highway from border to border. The governor signed this legislation into law Sept. 16, 2019, and the law became effective Jan. 1 of this year. On Friday, Sept. 18, this year's POW-MIA Recognition Day, POW-MIA Memorial Highway signs will be dedicated and installed on Highway 26 near the communities of Seaside, Boring, Madras, Prineville, John Day and Vale.

These signs on Highway 26 will help us all remember and cause our children to ask questions. A group of dedicated Oregonians are working to make sure that our Vietnam War veterans are remembered with a Vietnam War Memorial on the state Capitol grounds.

The proposed design of the memorial includes a tribute to our prisoners of war and those who are still missing In action.

You can honor and remember our heroes with a contribution to the Vietnam War Memorial on the Oregon state Capitol grounds. Contributions by check can be mailed to: Vietnam War Memorial Fund, P.O. Box 1448, Boring, OR 97009. Credit card donations can be made at

Join us in remembering our Prisoners of War and Missing In Action, especially on Sept. 18, POW-MIA Recognition Day.

Clackamas County resident Steve Bates is a life member of the Associates of Vietnam Veterans of America, and serves as chair of the Committee on Memorials and Remembrance and president of the Vietnam War Memorial Fund. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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