It is said that there is loyalty in the simple act of remembrance. In November, the United States Congress unveiled a Chair of Honor that sits empty in the United States Capitol as a tribute to those brave men and women who, in the course of their courageous military service, have been rendered missing in action or prisoners of war.
The Chair of Honor serves as a solemn reminder of the sacrifice of more than 80,000 U.S. service members who remain classified as POW/MIA. Visitors to the U.S. Capitol, members of Congress and staff pass by the Chair and take a moment to pay their respects to the approximately 1,000 troops in Vietnam, 7,000 troops in the Korean War and 70,000 troops in World War II who have not come home. The Chair of Honor also serves as a reminder to members of Congress of the gravity of our decisions when we send our sons and daughters to war and of our enduring obligation to their families to see that they ultimately return.
In our country, the families of American service members who are POW and MIA have often suffered alone. Groups like Rolling Thunder have fiercely advocated for these families to ensure they remain at the forefront of our minds. In 2014, Joe D’Entremont, who was president of Rolling Thunder Massachusetts Chapter 1 at the time and is now a National member, met with me in Washington. We discussed the importance of honoring POWs and MIAs, particularly in the U.S. Capitol.
POW/MIA Chairs of Honor already sit in ballparks and public spaces across the country. It seemed fitting that we honor those service members who remain unaccounted for within the U.S. Capitol, a symbol of our nation’s history and enduring spirit.
I introduced the National POW/MIA Remembrance Act to authorize the placement of a POW/MIA Chair of Honor in the U.S. Capitol, and my colleague Sen. Elizabeth Warren introduced a companion bill in the Senate. In April of 2016, President Barack Obama signed the bill into law.
Members of Rolling Thunder have worked hard to promote government accountability for American POWs and MIAs. Joe, along with Gus Dante, another member of Rolling Thunder National, have been leaders in advocating for the placement of POW/MIA Chairs of Honor across the country and were instrumental in helping us place the Chair in the Capitol. I admire their loyalty and dedication to honoring these brave men and women.
The Chair of Honor was also supported by the National League of POW/MIA Families, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the American Legion, the Military Officers Association of America, and the Vietnam Veterans of America. It is a testament to the American spirit that so many organizations continue to fight to keep the memory of our brave service members alive.
As members of Rolling Thunder make their way into Washington, D.C., I hope they will have a chance to see the new Chair of Honor, a product of their dedication to those who have served our nation courageously and honorably.
• Democrat Rep. Stephen F. Lynch represents the 8th Congressional District in Massachusetts. He has served in Congress since 2001 and is the Ranking Member of the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on National Security and also serves on the House Committee on Financial Services.