WASHINGTON — The nation paused Friday to remember National Prisoners of War and Missing In Action Recognition Day.
The numbers are staggering.
Dating back to the Revolutionary War, still missing are more than 81,900 U.S. military members -- these people were never found, never accounted for.
More than 72,000 from World War II.
More than 7,500 from the Korean War.
More than 1,500 from the Vietnam War.
"We will scour every inch of land," said Gen. John Hyton, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "We'll dive every shore. We'll plunge into every depth of the Pacific and Atlantic. We'll comb every bit of the Korean and Italian peninsulas, the unmarked graves of Belgium to Burma. And we will find you. We will never forget and will never leave a fallen comrade behind."
Since 1979, National POW/MIA Recognition Day has been observed across the nation on the third Friday of September.
The National League of POW/MIA Families' flag symbolizes the United States' resolve to never forget those servicemembers.
In capital letters on the flag are the words: "You Are Not Forgotten".
That sentiment was echoed Friday at the Pentagon Hall of Heroes by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin in a message to the families of the missing.
"You have faced absences," he said. "You have faced uncertainty. And you have faced loss. And we are inspired by the strength that you have shown, day in and day out. And we will always honor the service and sacrifice that your loved ones have given our great country. We stand with you and we always will."
This year alone, the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency has accounted for 135 U.S. personnel whose remains had previously been missing.