Mayor Jim Coppinger, Hamilton County Government and the Chief John Ross Chapter, NSDAR commemorated POW/MIA on Friday, Sept. 21, in the rotunda of the Hamilton County Courthouse, with veterans, DAR members and the local citizens present. Sept. 21, is designated as a National Day of Remembrance for recognizing the valor and sacrifice of Prisoners of War [POW] and those members of the armed forces still considered as Missing in Action [MIA].
Hamilton County Historian Linda Moss Mines presided during the commemorative event which featured official remarks from Mayor Coppinger, an invocation by Grady Davidson, Pastor of Lookout Valley Presbyterian, the presentation and posting of the U. S., Tennessee and POW/MIA flags by the Vietnam Veterans of America, Chapter # 203 Honor Guard and remembrances from Bill Hullander, Hamilton County Trustee.
Chief John Ross Chapter Regent Jessica M. Dumitru presided over the POW Recognition Ceremony. Three former POWS were introduced to the crowd, with each being introduced by a chosen friend who shared the individual story. E6 John Sparks, U. S. Army, POW, 1968-1973, Vietnam War, Hanoi Hilton was introduced by former Marine Bill Norton, the immediate Past President of the VVA 203. Col. Bill Gaunt, U. S. Army [Ret], POW, 1972-1973, Vietnam War, Hanoi Hilton was introduced by Major General Bill Raines, U. S. Army [Ret], Chairman of the Board, Coolidge Medal of Honor Heritage Center. 2Lt. Earl L. [BO] Cline, U. S. Army Air Corp, POW, 1945, World War II, German Prisoner of War Camp was introduced by Col. Chris Dooley, U. S. Air Force [Ret], Chairman of the Chattanooga Area Veterans Council.
Each former POW was presented with a Quilt of Valor, crafted by the members of the Chief John Ross Chapter under the direction of Immediate Past Regent Teresa Webb Rimer. The quilts were presented by Regent Dumitru and Recording Secretary Jennifer Sawyer Harvey in a moving ‘wrap’ ceremony.
Historian Linda Moss Mines briefly summarized the history of the MIAs and the attempts to bring each person home for proper burial and recognition. She then lit the Candle of Remembrance in honor of those from Hamilton County who remain unaccounted for in official records.
Following the commemoration, the doors to the south lawn of the Courthouse were opened and the VVA # 203 Honor Guard hoisted the POW/MIA Flag, where it will remain flying until Oct. 1.