In a dramatic effort to make sure Americans prisoners of war/missing in action “are not forgotten,” a veteran motorcyclist and thousands of allies have worked together to bring the haunting POW/MIA flag to all 50 states.
“A lot of kids today don’t even know what a POW/MIA is,” Army veteran Jim Ray told a University of Delaware campus reporter in March when the POW 50-State Flag Tour stopped at UD’s Trabant University Center.
The flag — protected in a transparent display case — started its journey on Sept. 17, 2017, in Grundy, Virginia. It was passed along, baton-style, by motorcycle riders across the country — flown to Hawaii in February and displayed in North Pole, Alaska in November — and returned to Grundy on May 19.
Along the way, thousands of people coast to coast came to events to pay their respects to the flag — and the 83,000 U.S. military personnel who have not returned from past wars — and many signed a commemorative book that travels with the flag.
“When we do [the flag tour], let’s make sure there are plenty of tears to go with it,” Mr. Ray said in an email for this article. Moreover, he added, “each point of contact in each state was instructed that the POW Flag 50-State Tour was never to be used a fundraising event and also to not allow the flag to be disrespected in any manner.”
The POW flag tour came about after Mr. Ray and his wife, Pat, visited the Vietnam Memorial Wall, and he had a dream “about us as Vietnam veterans transferring POWs across the country to get them away from their daily torture,” he said in an email.
The idea grew into having the POW flag escorted through all 50 states, stopping for local ceremonies.
• Rolling Thunder, Inc., and other veterans’ and bikers’ clubs around the nation swiftly responded to the idea — “they could not believe the POW flag had never toured the United States,” Mr. Ray wrote — and the eight-month journey began.