Prince George’s County soon will join a statewide effort to commemorate military members who were captured or went missing while serving the country.
County Council members Ingrid M. Turner (D-Dist. 4) of Bowie and Mary A. Lehman (D-Dist. 1) of Laurel introduced a resolution March 19 to fly the POW/MIA flag — representing military prisoners of war and those missing in action — at the County Administration Building and circuit court, both in Upper Marlboro, year-round beginning May 21.
With 70,000 veterans living in Prince George’s, the highest veteran population in Maryland, it is critical for Prince George’s to set an example for the rest of the state in flying the flag, said Ginger Miller of Accokeek, chairwoman of the county’s Commission for Veterans.
Seven of the state’s 41 service members listed as former prisoners of war or missing in action are from Prince George’s, according to the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office based in Washington, D.C.
Prince George’s already flies the POW/MIA flag — a black and white flag created by the National League of POW/MIA Families with the silhouette of a soldier at an encampment and the words “You are not forgotten” — on days designated for remembrance such as Memorial Day, Turner said.
“It’s a good symbol that the community supports its veterans and their sacrifices,” said Jan “J.D.” Larson, a Bowie veteran and state commander of the American Legion in Maryland. “We think it’s important since it’s something that’s often forgotten, that you’ve got thousands of soldiers still missing.”
The resolution is part of a statewide initiative led by Charles County, which started flying the flag year-round in September, said Candice Quinn Kelly, president of the Charles County Board of Commissioners.
During the Maryland Association of Counties conference in August, Kelly challenged all counties to begin flying the POW/MIA flag year-round by this summer’s conference in August, she said.
Kelly said she did not know how many counties are now flying the flag. The National League of POW/MIA Families does not track the information, league national coordinator Lacy Rourke said.
Charles County began flying the flag year-round after learning about a missing county soldier from the Vietnam War, Francis Desales Wills of La Plata, Kelly said.
More than 83,000 Americans are missing from World War II to the 1991 Gulf War, according to a report from the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office.
The Prince George’s council will read the resolution May 21 to coincide with the circuit court’s annual tribute ceremony for veterans, Turner said.
“It’s a good idea because it’s a constant reminder of the people we’ve lost and the hell they’ve been through,” said Fred Nordhorn of Langley Park, a commissioner with the Prince George’s veterans commission.