Airmen Run 24 Hours in Remembrance of POW/MIA Day

  • Published
  • SMC Public Affairs

Airmen, their families, friends and volunteers from Los Angeles Air Force Base along with members from other military branches participated in a remembrance ceremony and a 24-hour torch relay run in honor of those who were held captive or are still missing and unaccounted for during times of armed conflict Prisoners of War and Missing in Action (POW/MIA), Sept. 20-21. The ceremony officially began at 9 a.m. on Terminal Island at the Port of San Pedro.

Col. John Claxton, deputy director of the Space and Missile Systems Center’s Global Positioning Systems Directorate at LAAFB in El Segundo and Cmdr. William B. Winburn, commanding officer of U.S. Coast Guard Base Los Angeles-Long Beach, helped light the ceremonial torch. The torch was then carried by teams of runners across the Vincent Thomas Bridge, across the waterfront in San Pedro, the Palos Verdes Peninsula, Redondo Beach, Hermosa Beach, Manhattan Beach, El Segundo, and an all-night run around the running track encircling the Schriever Space Complex on LAAFB.

The 24-hour relay culminated with a wreath laying ceremony on Sept. 21, at the courtyard on LAAFB in remembrance of those service-members held captive and/or missing in action and unaccounted for during war time. Capt. Michael Telcide, from the Global Positioning Systems Directorate, and one of the event organizers was the last participants holding the ceremonial torch. During the ceremony, he laid the torch in its final resting spot, along-side a memorial wreath in honor of those never forgotten. 

“It has been an honor to carry the torch as our nation takes time to remember our heroes and their families,” said Telcide. “The POW/MIA Day means a lot to me. As an Airman, it is comforting knowing that if I go in harm’s way in service of my country, they will do everything to bring me home.”

Lt. Gen. John Thompson, Space and Missile Systems Center commander and Air Force program executive office for space, officiated the ceremony along with guest speaker, Mr. Luke Zamperini, son of Louis Zamperini who was a survivor of the Japanese prisoner of war camps during World War II and an Olympic distance runner during the 1936 Berlin Olympics. Zamperini shared the trials and sufferings his father endured during the 47 days he was adrift as sea, his period of being savagely tortured in prison camp, and the strong belief in forgiveness he held.

“Being the son of someone who was MIA and eventually a POW, it has been a real honor and privilege to be here today and speak to you. And as a civilian, citizen of United States of America, I couldn’t be more proud of who you are and what you do every day,” said Zamperini. “I just pray that at the end of your service, you come home safe and sound physically, mentally, and spiritually.”