South County Times, December 22, 2016.
Fenton recently received a proclamation making it the very first officially declared “POW-MIA City” in the nation.
The Jefferson Barracks POW-MIA Museum started the new city designation program to expand its outreach and awareness efforts for the POW/MIAs and their families.
“Most of the WWII veterans, many Korean veterans, and an increasing number of Vietnam veterans are leaving us,” said Paul Dillon, president of the Jefferson Barracks POW-MIA Museum. “Human nature being what it is – over time the chances increase that their sacrifices and service will be taken for granted, or worse, overlooked.”
Dillon said the program asks a city and its citizens to remember and show appreciation for the POW/MIA and their families. A few ways for cities to show appreciation include flying the black POW-MIA flag at city hall, holding Veterans Day events, or the creation of a plaque in honor of local POW-MIA veterans.
The museum hopes the program will become a signature piece of its POW/MIA awareness efforts and that many more cities will follow Fenton in receiving the designation. The museum has also applied for a trademark of the program, according to Dillon.
There is no cost to a city receiving the designation other than organizing and hosting veterans’ recognition efforts or events, which many cities already participate in. The museum can choose a city to receive the designation or a city can apply directly to the museum to become a POW-MIA City.
Fenton Mayor Mike Polizzi said he is accustomed to presenting proclamations, but that this is the first time in his term the city has received one.
“I thought, wow, what a great honor to represent our veterans with such a proclamation,” said Polizzi. “It’s humbling. It means the efforts the city of Fenton has been doing for years are being recognized. This recognition let’s people know Fenton is supportive and does a good job with our veterans and Veterans Day activities.”
Fenton has three annual veteran’s events with a Veterans Day ceremony and separate breakfast, and a Sept. 11 memorial event. The black POW-MIA flag is also flown at city hall.
Fenton Vietnam Veterans of America (VVA) Chapter 1028 president, Russ Whitener, conceived of the POW-MIA City program after hearing about Arnold becoming a “Purple Heart City.” He wondered if there was a similar designation program for POW-MIA organizations. After searching the internet without positive results, Whitener decided to pursue the idea.
Whitener approached the museum and Fenton about the idea and found an enthusiastic response. Whitener also represents Fenton’s VVA 1028 on the museum’s board of directors.
Whitener said introducing the new program brings pride to the “great group of guys” who belong to the VVA 1028. It also helps to further strengthen the group’s position with the city of Fenton to continue to help with local veterans efforts and events.
There are 13 veteran organizations involved on the museum’s board and all will be working to spread the word about the new program.
“The museum’s mission is to preserve the history and legacy of our POWs and MIAs and their families,” Dillon said. “The new city designation program is one way to help accomplish that.”