CARSON CITY — Because of the persistence of a Vietnam War veteran from Las Vegas, the POW-MIA flag will fly in front of the state Capitol on Veterans Day and every other day from now on.
Frank Janata, also a retired firefighter, said he couldn’t understand why the flag was not flying at the Capitol during a trip he made to Carson City in September.
"I couldn’t get any answers," he said. "Governor Gibbons flew Wild Weasels (F-4G aircraft) in Vietnam during the war. He must remember the POWs and the MIAs. The POW-MIA flag was flying across the street (in front of the attorney general’s office), but it wasn’t at the Capitol."
Janata tried to contact Gov. Jim Gibbons about the flag through members of his staff. After a couple of weeks of waiting, he contacted the media.
The flag went up late last week.
"I had tears in my eyes when they called me and said the flag was up," said Janata, who comes from a family of veterans. "I didn’t do this for me, I did it for veterans. The flag is very special to us. The POWs and MIAs never will be forgotten by us."
There are 1,728 service members from the Vietnam War who remain missing.
A prisoner of war, Pfc. Bowe Bergdahl, was captured in Afghanistan and has not been released. Bergdahl, 23, of Ketchum, Idaho, was captured by the Taliban in southeastern Afghanistan on June 30. Accounts of how he was captured differ. A 28-minute video released by the Taliban on July 14 showed Bergdahl and a close-up of his dog tags.
Two Army paratroopers, whose names have not been released, were reported missing last week during a resupply mission in western Afghanistan. Authorities said they might have died after being swept down a river.
More than 86,000 Americans are missing from World War II and 8,000 from the Korean War.
The National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia began drives in the 1970s to place the POW-MIA flag on public buildings out of concern for missing service members in Vietnam, but the flag has come to represent the missing from all American wars.
Since the end of the Vietnam War in 1975, the remains of 855 missing service members have been returned to the United States for interment. Three civilians were released by the Vietnamese government shortly after the war ended, but no living American service member has returned home since the end of that war.
Ann Mills-Griffin, executive director of the POW-MIA Families group, said the Vietnamese government’s cooperation with her organization "has improved significantly over the years." But she said at times the government has been unwilling to return previously uncovered remains.
Gibbons can only speculate why the POW-MIA has not been flying in front of the Capitol.
In the past, the flag flew over the Capitol, but he thinks someone stopped that practice because of the cost of replacing flags. Flags flying on top of the Capitol dome must be replaced every few weeks because they are ripped apart by winds. A 3-foot-by-5-foot flag costs about $45.
Gibbons said they fly from now on — atop the flagpole in front of the building, which doesn’t face such high winds.
"We are flying it now, and we will fly it," he said.
Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-687-3901.National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia
DISPLAYING POW-MIA FLAG
When flying the POW-MIA flag on the same pole as the American flag, it should be immediately below the U.S. flag.
When several flags are flying on the same pole, the order from the top should be: the U.S. flag, the POW-MIA flag, then the state flag or other flags, unless otherwise stipulated by a state’s flag code. Nevada has no flag code, but most people choose to fly the state flag above the POW-MIA flag.
State and municipal governments have been encouraged to fly the POW-MIA flag daily "to demonstrate continuing commitment to the goal of fullest possible accounting of all personnel not yet returned to American soil."
The 1998 Defense Authorization Act requires the flag to be flown at the White House, U.S. Capitol, military installations, post offices and other federal government facilities on at least six days a year: Armed Forces Day on the third Saturday in May, Memorial Day on the last Monday in May, Flag Day on June 14, Independence Day on July 4, National POW-MIA Recognition Day on the third Friday in September and Veterans Day on Nov. 11.
Source: National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia