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Remember our Fallen Heroes

  • Published
  • By Col. Timothy Zadalis
  • 43rd Airlift Wing commander
This week is a week for remembering. Today is POW/MIA Recognition Day, and earlier this week was the fifth anniversary of Sept. 11, a day that forever changed our nation.
One of the most moving ceremonies I've ever witnessed was a repatriation ceremony for six fallen heroes from the Vietnam War. A repatriation ceremony honors these heroes as their remains are brought back on U.S. soil. I believe every American should see a repatriation ceremony, but unfortunately very few will have the chance. It's incredibly moving and will change you. 

Thousands of Americans remain unaccounted for since World War II. At the end of the Vietnam War, there were 2,583 Americans unaccounted for. There have been 785 accounted for since the end of the war, leaving the total at 1,798. Forty-four of those unaccounted for are from North Carolina, with five having a Fayetteville or Fort Bragg home of record. One service member is still listed as missing from the Persian Gulf War, F/A-18 Pilot Lt. Cmdr. Michael Speicher. One hundred and twenty-six are unaccounted for from the Cold War; more than 8,100 from the Korean War; and more than 78,000 from World War II. And closer to home, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command identified the remains of Robert Upchurch, a former Flying Tiger from WWII who was killed in a crash in China in 1944. His remains were returned to his family in Moore County for burial earlier this year. 

Another significant event this week was the fifth anniversary of Sept. 11. It's important to pause and reflect on that day five years ago. We came together as a nation, and we shouldn't forget the feelings of shock and anger we had as a cowardly enemy struck the first blow. That day is why we're doing what we're doing today - to prevent something like that from ever happening again. 

On a brighter note, we had a tremendous visit with the 440th Airlift Wing. Two Pope C-130s flew with the 440th last week. Pope and the 440th are two great teams working together to make the transition from an active duty wing to a reserve wing. We have a lot of work as we get ready for that, but I expect the transition to go smoothly. The 440th will stand up their flag in May next year here at Pope. I want to give a special thanks to Col. Merle "Mad Dog" Hart for last week's visit. I look forward to working more with him and the 440th team in the coming months. 

Congratulations this week go out to Airman 1st Class Brad Curry, 43rd Communications Squadron, for winning Federal Computer Week's Rising Star award. The Rising Star award recognizes those who have made a difference and are in the first third of their careers. 

And remember, Keep Safe, and Be There for Your Wingman.