"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Songs of the Pioneers song from TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper column, cross-breeding watercolor, metaphors and journalism, for readers in more than 150 countries.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Two American flags--freedom and imprisonment

On a rural highway in New Mexico.
One American flag always seems to demand my attention more  than others. Sure, the Stars and Stripes,  the Lone Star, the Stars and Bars always catch my eye.
But this one is usually tattered, sometimes faded. Yet it always stands out. The flag of freedom offset by a flag of imprisonment.
The black MIA-POW harks from 1971 in the Vietnam War when the wife of a missing service member and member of the National League of Families of American Prisons and Missing in Southeast Asia saw the need for a symbol, and the group created it.
In 1989, a league flag that flew over the White House  on the 1988 POW/MIA Recognition Day was installed in the Capitol Rotunda--the only flag every displayed there, and the only one other than the Stars and Stripes to have flown over the White House. A bipartisan congress officially recognized the flag.
The design has varied some over the years, but it is a stark reminder of the cost of war to this country--barbed wire, a guard tower and the bust of a soldier.
You rarely see the flag in Oklahoma--there's one flown in the yard of a Marine near 30th and Penn in Oklahoma City. But in New Mexico you see the flag everywhere, including flying from the state capitol, hanging over the doorway at the Albuquerque airport, and in yards and windows around the state. New Mexico has paid a huge cost  in lives over the years, and in that state, for veterans, the flag's motto is real: "You Are Not Forgotten."
In Washington D.C. for years "The Last Firebase" set up between the Vietnam Memorial and the Lincoln Monument flew the flag, with volunteers trying to answer questions and provide information.
According to the Defense Department Defense Prisoner of War Missing Personnel Office, there are probably no surviving MIAs from Vietnam. As of 2010, the office listed 1,711 Americas as MIA from Vietnam, with 969 being pursued, 117 deferred and 625 not being pursued. The office ha s received 1,997 first hand reports of live sightings of possible U.S./ P.O.W.s since 1975, of which only 55 remain unresolved.
Aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln, CVN 72
Today, for the U.S. Military, the flag has become a symbol of those MIA in all wars. Two years ago, when I was aboard the  nuclear carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, a table was set every day in the main eating area for the crew, carrying the symbols of salt, a lemon, a rose and an upturned glass, with the flag's logo and motto.

This is a series on the far-flung readers of this blog. Of the readers of this blog over the past four years, fully two thirds have been from the United States, and I suspect that some may have been former POWs. 


  1. I love the flags of all the countries. Thank you for such a nice blog. And yeah, one thing I would like share is, coffee represents 71% of all the United States caffeine consumption.

  2. Thanks, let's work to make it 75 percent