JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It’s been 50 years since the POW-MIA flag was created in the Jacksonville area.
The flag flies to honor those who were prisoners of war or missing in action.
Many gathered Saturday at Cecil Field for a POW-MIA Recognition Day event honoring those who didn’t come home from war.
An emotional sound for many, “Taps” was played to honor those who were killed fighting for our country -- or those who are still missing in action.
The ceremony was held at the POW-MIA memorial at the former Naval Air Station Cecil Field where a new 26-acre museum is being built.
Kevin Kuzel is one of many people who has a family member who was a prisoner of war.
“Both the prisoners and the MIAs, we owe a lot to these people,” Kuzel said.
Kuzel said his father was a POW in World War II. He said he was captured during an operation called Market Garden in Holland.
“The aircraft that was pulling his glider was shot down, and he landed in a field and was immediately surrounded,” Kuzel said.
Kuzel said his father was a prisoner of war for less than a year, and his father returned home safely.
Others, like the Hoff family, were not so lucky. Pilot Michael Hoff has been MIA since 1970 when he was stationed in Laos.
“Every time they bring someone home, it continues to give us hope that one day we’ll have our father buried on American soil,” Susan Ogawa said.
Mary Hoff created the POW- MIA flag 50 years ago, and her children are sharing her story. On Friday, which marked National POW/MIA Recognition Day, a section of Moody Avenue in Clay County was designated as Mary Helen Hoff Memorial Avenue in her honor.
“When our father was shot down, my mom wanted to have accountability for POW-MIAs,” her oldest son, Mike Hoff, explained.
“The wives back then were told not to talk about things, and they refused to accept POW-MIA status for their loved ones,” her daughter, Susan Ogawa, said.
The Hoff family said after 50 years, they haven’t been able to bring their father’s body back home from Laos to be buried on American soil, so they won’t stop spreading awareness and honoring those who are missing in action.
“Every time they bring someone home it continues to give us hope,” Ogawa said.
According to the Department of Defense, there are approximately 82,000 former prisoners of war and unaccounted for U.S. servicemembers. The museum will honor them.