National Prisoners of War/Missing in Action (POW/MIA) Recognition Day is the day our nation gathers to honor its prisoners of war and soldiers who are still missing, as well as their family members.

This observance takes place the third Friday in September, making 2018 National POW/MIA Recognition Day September 21st. In honor of this national observance, here are the answers to 4 frequently asked questions about POW/MIA Recognition Day.


  1. What does POW/MIA Recognition Day mean to the families?

Imagine if someone you love went missing and never returned. Think about how you would wonder what happened to them. Are they safe? Are they in pain? And perhaps the most difficult question of all: Are they still alive?

For the families of those who are missing, this is their reality. And the hard truth is that some may never know the answers to their questions. They will continue to suffer from something referred to as an ambiguous loss.

An ambiguous loss is a term we use to describe losses related to presence and absence. There are two main types: a physical absence with a psychological presence, and a physical presence with a psychological absence.

If you know someone with Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, you may already be familiar with the latter. Your loved one with Alzheimer’s is physically there, but they are psychologically absent.

The families of those who are still missing experience the opposite. Their loved ones are missing, but they don’t have closure.

Ambiguous loss makes it difficult to move on. National POW/MIA Recognition Day reminds us that there are families who tirelessly carry the burden of their missing loved ones.


  1. What is the National League of POW/MIA?

The National League of POW/MIA helps honor our nation’s promise to leave no one behind. The league’s sole purpose is as follows:

  • Obtain the release of all prisoners
  • Reach the fullest possible accounting for the missing
  • Attain repatriation of all recoverable remains of those who died serving our nation during the Vietnam War

The league allows families to feel like they are not alone. There is an entire team just as determined as they are to bring their loved one home.


  1. What is the significance of the POW/MIA flag?

In 1970, the National League of POW/MIA families designed the flag to represent our missing military members. Today, the flag continues to serve as a symbol of America’s determination to account for the brave men and women who are still missing and unaccounted for.

In 1988, Congress passed the Defense Authorization Act, which requires the POW/MIA flag to be flown six days a year: Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day, National POW/MIA Recognition Day, and Veterans Day.


  1. How do you observe POW/MIA Recognition Day?

We have our courageous military men and women to thank for the freedoms we enjoy today. As a nation, it is our obligation to acknowledge that every veteran made a sacrifice, and those who never made it home made the ultimate sacrifice.

There are many ways you can honor veterans and observe POW/MIA Recognition Day. Here are a few ways you can get involved:

  • Take time to reflect on those who were held prisoner, who never made it home, and whose families desperately want answers.
  • Share a heartfelt message on social media thanking veterans for their service and acknowledging those who have yet to return.
  • If you know someone who has a missing family member, send them a card. Let them know you are thinking about them and acknowledge their strength.
  • Fly the flag on POW/MIA Recognition Day.
  • Donate to the National League of POW/MIA to support its mission.


Gone But Never Forgotten

Some were taken prisoner, some are simply missing. One thing remains the same: they are all missed.