A list of missing veterans will be read at the
By LAURE CIOFFI
VINDICATOR PENNSYLVANIA BUREAU
MERCER, Pa. — Dave Bailey makes it a point to come out once a year on a cold January day to remember those who have not yet made it home from war.
Bailey, of Mercer, a Vietnam War veteran, is among those taking part in the 24-hour vigil near the Mercer County Courthouse to remind people that Americans have been left behind in every overseas conflict this country has been involved in.
“As a comrade, I don’t think we should leave anyone behind. And if we do, our country has a responsibility to find them,” Bailey said.
Bailey was among the first to arrive at the all-night vigil that started at 7 p.m. Friday and will continue through this evening with a 7 p.m. service.
Veterans in Mercer County started their annual vigils for missing soldiers in 1984 shortly after dedicating a memorial to the deceased Vietnam veterans from the county.
“We had a get-together and said, ‘OK, we did something for the guys who died. Now let’s do something for the guys who didn’t come back,’” said Wayne Stratos, commander of the Mercer County Vietnam Era Veterans.
Though most of those involved early on were Vietnam veterans, the vigil has always been geared toward the return of missing service people from all wars.
Those involved cite the return last year of the remains of World War II pilot James Blose, who lived in Sharpsville, Pa., and died after his plane crashed in the Figi islands during the war.
Stratos said they hope to have others returned.
Gary Solander, director of the Mercer County Veterans Affairs office and a Vietnam veteran, said he would like to see our country search more aggressively for those missing in action or considered prisoners of war.
“We need to get an accounting of all of our people before we pay these countries any money,” Solander said of reparations often paid after a conflict.
He noted that there are still many missing World War II veterans, as well as those from Vietnam, Korea and even the most recent wars in the Middle East.
Solander said they do the vigil every January.
As part of the vigil, the names of missing soldiers from the area are read.
“As long as we say their names, they will never be forgotten,” Stratos said.