Thank our veterans - those serving and those who served

  • Published
  • By Mark L. Stephensen II
  • National League of POW/MIA Families chairman
This Veterans Day, what's important is the recognition and remembrance of the sacrifices made by military members who have served our nation and worn its uniform.

But there are 1,728 unreturned veterans from the Vietnam War -- what about them?

In 1970, family members -- mostly wives -- of the thousands of POWs and MIAs formed an organization to come together and compel our government to be more proactive and effective in dealing with them and the POW/MIA issue. This organization was formed as the National League of Families of Prisoners of War and Missing in Action in Southeast Asia, Inc., commonly known as the National League POW/MIA Families.

Yet on this Veterans Day, more than 40 years later, the organization still finds itself struggling to fulfill its mission of the fullest possible accounting, including the return of live POWs and repatriation of remains. The POW/MIA issue is long and complex, but one thing we should remember is when men and women answer the call to duty of this nation, they deserve any and all respect, honor and remembrance. Likewise, if something goes wrong, our nation is duty-bound to provide the fullest possible accounting to their families. Devotion cuts both ways.

Mountain Home has its share of unreturned veterans. Some have come home, some still remain unaccounted for.
My family was lucky. My father, Col. Mark L. Stephensen, U.S. Air Force, MIA/KIA/remains were returned. He was stationed here just before he began his second tour of Vietnam. He was declared missing in action April 29, 1967. His remains were returned in April 1988 and received a proper burial with full military honors just as he was promised. Our nation kept its promise, and my family and I are grateful. But many thousands of families still wait and wonder if they have been forgotten.

The National League of POW/MIA Families remains committed to the mission of compelling our government to seek the fullest possible accounting. Our mission is as important today as it was 40 years ago. Ketchum native Private 1st Class Bowe Bergdahl is still being held against his will in Afghanistan. We trust that our government is doing everything it can to bring him home safe. We hold his family in our thoughts and prayers.

Veterans Day means different things to different people, but we all must remember. We must never break faith with our POW/MIAs and we must all thank our veterans, both those currently serving and those who have served in the past. We must never forget. We must remember that we owe them and their families our liberty, our thanks and our love.