A parade doesn’t take long, when it’s led by the American Legion Riders. With no floats or marching bands, the parade before Saturday’s POW/MIA Recognition ceremony lasted about five minutes, with a motorcade of dozens of flag-laden motorcycles rolling down Main Street to the courthouse square and circling the block.
The streets were also lined with American flags and MIA flags.
The riders had started their run earlier that morning, in Ellinwood, and traveled through Claflin and Hoisington before arriving at Brit Spaugh Park in Great Bend for the parade. There they were joined by dignitaries, mostly riding in cars, who would take part in the second annual ceremony honoring American ex-prisoners of war and missing in action. That event, which included the retirement of one U.S. flag and one MIA flag, was hosted by the American Legion, Auxiliary and American Legion Riders of Argonne Post 180.
More flags will be retired at 1 p.m. today in a ceremony at the American Legion Post, 1011 Kansas St. It is open to the public and attendees may dedicate a flag to honor a loved one, living or departed.
Saturday’s ceremony started with a fly-over, with planes in the "missing man formation."
A Missing Man Table Ceremony, presented by Ellsworth Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6485. A table with six empty chairs symbolized those missing in action. The Rev. Douglas Dufon explained the symbols of items at the table. A slice of lemon on each plate reminds onlookers of the bitter fate of those who did not return, and salt signifies the families who wait and the tears they shed.
Vietnam veteran Bob Couch explained another display set up in the courthouse square. Twenty-five pairs of empty boots behind an American flag represented "25 Kansas sons still unaccounted for in Vietnam," he said. A single pair of boots off to the side, placed next to the MIA flag, represents those and all of the others still unaccounted for, including more than 1,700 from the Vietnam War.
Other speakers Saturday included Roy Titsworth, commander of American Legion Post 180; state senators Ruth Teichman and Jay Emler and Rep. Don Schroeder; and Mayor Mike Allison, who read a proclamation. The third Friday in September is set aside each year as National POW/MIA Recognition Day.
The POW/MIA Rembrance ceremony Saturday ended with buglers Sara Miles and Steve Mai playing "Taps." Mai also sang the national anthem near the beginning of the ceremony. After a musical interlude by the Great Bend Olde Tyme Towne Band, directed by Joe Boley, the Flag Retirement Ceremony began. There were readings by Don Halbower, and Titsworth explained the ceremony. Scouts presented a flag that had become unserviceable. Next they separated the red and white stripes and the blue field with 50 stars. Following flag protocol, the flag was then burned.
Saturday’s event paid tribute to all veterans, Titsworth said, "those who returned and those who did not. This is a day that reminds us to keep their memories alive."