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Flag-Raising Debuts Permanent Salute to Vietnam POWs, MIAs

January 23, 1998|JEFF KASS

Next to a wooden podium outside the county Hall of Administration Thursday were a bowl of rice, sandals and a prisoner's uniform inside a small bamboo cage.

The unusual display was for a ceremony marking the first time that the county government raised a flag in honor of prisoners of war and military personnel missing in action.

The objects represented the experience of Vietnam POWs, said speakers who took the podium and veterans who attended the emotional ceremony in Civic Center Plaza.

The flag, black with white lettering, shows the silhouette of a man's face flanked by a guard tower and barbed wire. The acronyms POW and MIA are above. Below is the slogan: "You are not forgotten."

"If enough people see this flag, they're going to wonder what it stands for," said veterans activist Bob Kakuk, who paid $50 for the POW-MIA flag that now flies below the U.S. flag in the plaza. "The more flags that are seen, the better the issue could be resolved."

Kakuk and others at the ceremony criticized the U.S. government for not doing more to investigate unresolved POW and MIA cases.

The Department of Defense diligently tracks leads but has no credible evidence of U.S. service personnel being held against their will in Asia, spokesman Larry Greer said.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Jim Silva, who spearheaded the campaign to fly the POW-MIA flag year-round, said he could not comment on the U.S. government policy. But he said he was inspired to action by people like Judie Taber, who spoke at Thursday's ceremony and whose brother has been listed as missing in action in Vietnam since 1966.

"What I can comment on is the fact that there are still people like Judie Taber, who doesn't know where her brother is," Silva said.

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