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Public invited to memorial event honoring POWs

'Gathering in the Pines' to be held at Cecil Field POW/MIA Memorial

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The veteran’s councils from the five counties in Northeast Florida have banded together to honor U.S. prisoners of war and those still missing in action. 

Everyone is invited to attend “Gathering in the Pines” -- an all-day event beginning Saturday morning to support the Cecil Field POW/MIA Memorial and Museum while honoring all our POW/MIAs and the sacrifices they’ve made. 

It is organized by the Veteran Councils of Duval, Clay, Baker Nassau and St. Johns counties. The event will be held in conjunction with National POW/MIA Recognition Day. It begins at 9 a.m. and lasts until 5 p.m. at the Cecil Field Theatre at 13517 Lake Newman St.

As part of this event, the film "A Solemn Promise, America's Missing in Action" will be shown. The film pays tribute to the 82,000 still missing in action and unaccounted for since World War II. The showings are scheduled for 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m., and 3:30 p.m. 

In addition, Vietnam veterans will be recognized.

The event will feature the parading of the flags and a flyover, and several veterans’ organizations will be represented.

It’s a family friendly event with food trucks.

Albert “Buddy” Harris, CFPOWMIA Memorial spokesperson, will be keynote speaker. Primarily an A-7 Corsair II pilot, Harris has logged flight time in the A-4 Skyhawk, F-14 Tomcat, F-8 Crusader and F/A-18 Hornet during his 20-year career in active duty and reserves.

Harris spent his last years in the Navy working for the CNO and then Secretary of the Navy while at the Pentagon. There he helped to overhaul the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office and establish the Intelligence Community Analytic Cell for POW/MIA personnel, while working to repatriate Capt. Scott Speicher and the thousands of others still missing.

Steven Spickelmier is chairman of the Veterans Council for Duval County. Having served 26 years in the United States military, in both the Navy and Air Force, Spickelmier understands the sacrifice made by heroes every day.

"We do this for each other,” said Spickelmier. “Every veteran out there that day, and every person associated with that, we do this for each other, not ourselves."

With that comes the message of remembering and honoring our prisoners of war. Inside the conference center, a quilt is displayed showing prisoners of war. Some of their stories are showcased on storyboards decorating the room. Each one depicts a lifetime of sacrifice.

Spickelmier said in having this event, his hope is to inspire and inform our future generations, especially those who are called to serve.

"You never really think about that. But you could become a casualty,” said Spickelmier.  “And, it means so much to everyone who has ever served. Because that could happen to you, so you never leave anyone behind."

To learn more about the event, click here: A Gathering in the Pines


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