Three Sullivan County towns are believed to be the first within the county to voluntarily agree to fly the POW/MIA Flag on a daily basis at town facilities. Leading the movement by passing a resolution to display the flag was the Town of Highland, followed soon thereafter by the towns of Lumberland and Tusten.
“I feel very good about it,” said Highland councilman Fred Bosch, who also serves as senior vice commander of the Tusten-Highland VFW Post 6427. Spearheading the effort are the Highland highway superintendent and Post 6427 commander Norman Sutherland, adjutant and chair of the membership committee Peter D. Carmeci Sr. and service officer John Von Steenburgh.
“Pete’s been leading the charge, but we’re all behind it,” said Sutherland.
The men began their work by approaching the board of the Town of Highland. “The town is very proud to receive this,” said supervisor Andrew Boyar, as he accepted the flag during the town meeting in April. “We salute our veterans and we thank you very much.”
The black-and-white flag depicts the silhouette of a soldier with his head bowed and the words, “You are not forgotten.” Behind the soldier are the images of a watchtower, a strand of barbed wire and the letters “POW” (prisoner of war) and “MIA” (missing in action).
Congress designated the flag in 1990 as “the symbol of our nation’s concern and commitment to resolving as fully as possible the fates of Americans still prisoner, missing and unaccounted for in Southeast Asia.” It represents more than 2,000 individuals who were listed as prisoners of war or missing in action by the end of the Vietnam War.
Currently, the flag is specified to fly each year on Armed Forces Day, Memorial Day, Flag Day, Independence Day, National POW/MIA Recognition Day and Veterans Day. Civilians may fly the flag at any time.
The flag has not always triggered the kind of positive receptiveness seen so far in Sullivan County. The seeds for the only state law requiring display of the POW/MIA flag were planted in Arizona when Veterans of Foreign Wars Commander Lindsey Botkin asked the Huachuca City town council to fly the black and white flag at the town hall. Botkin’s request was turned down, which spurred his determination to see a change.
A Vietnam veteran and lifetime member of the VFW, Botkin said the POW/MIA flag wasn’t getting the respect it deserved and he began meeting with legislators and others. The resulting state law, which went into effect on July 29, 2010, requires the POW-MIA flag to fly over not only Huachuca City’s town hall, but also every Arizona town and city hall, county Superior Court buildings and county administrative buildings in the state.
Locally, the veterans are pleased with their progress to date, and don’t intend to stop now. “We plan to approach more towns and the state to pass resolutions next,” said Carmeci. “That would make New York the second state in the country to do so.”
Veterans interested in getting involved in this or other Post 6427 initiatives are urged to contact Carmeci at 845/557-6093 for more information. “We’re trying to interest people who are eligible to become members of the organization,” added Bosch.
See www.va.gov/opa/publications/celebrate/powmia.pdf  for more information about the POW/MIA Flag.