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Honoring Prisoners of War and Comrades Missing in Action

As we prepare to welcome the holiday season, we think of those unable to join us at the dinner table.

 

To honor prisoners of war (POW) and missing-in-action (MIA) comrades, we recall TechNet Indo-Pacific 2023’s final day dedication to those who have endured and are still enduring pain in the name of freedom. 

“Those who have served, those currently serving and those that will serve as members of the uniformed services are ever mindful that the sweetness of enduring peace has always been tainted by the bitterness of personal sacrifice,” said Lt. John Deanon, USN, N6 communications planner, for the Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet (COMPACFLT). 

Lt. Deanon directed the audience’s attention to the stage, where a table set for one represented the fragility of a lone prisoner against his/her suppressor. “They are unable to be with their loved ones and families today,” he continued, “so we join together to pay our humble tribute to them and to bear witness to their continued absence.” 

The table was set intentionally, with a symbolic meaning behind each component. The tablecloth was white, signifying the purity of the comrade’s intention to respond to their country’s call to arms. “The single red rose in a vase signifies the blood that many have shed in sacrifice to ensure the freedom of our beloved United States of America,” Deanon went on. The yellow ribbon illustrates the yellow ribbons worn by those who continue to demand the accounting of all missing comrades. The slice of lemon represents the soldiers’ bitter fate, Deanon said, and the salt depicts those who wait at home. “The glass is inverted—they cannot enjoy this meal with us at this point in time; the chair is empty; they are not here.” 

The candle symbolizes the hope for soldiers’ safe return home. “Let us remember and never forget their sacrifice,” Deanon said. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Joining the stage was Linda Newton, former U.S. Pacific Fleet chief information officer and past president of the AFCEA Hawaii Chapter. Newton took a moment to recognize two luncheon attendees.  

Retired U.S. Navy Capt. Jim Hickerson served for 30 years and worked in industry for 18 years upon retirement. Capt. Hickerson, who in 1967 was forced to eject over North Vietnam, was taken in as a prisoner of war, becoming the first A7 pilot shot down during the Vietnam War and the first A7 pilot to be captured. “After spending 1,909 days in captivity, Commander Hickerson was released during Operation Homecoming on March 14, 1973,” Newton shared. After returning to active duty, Capt. Hickerson retired in 1986 and remains active in the community. 

Sitting beside Capt. Hickerson was Carol Hickerson, whose first husband Maj. Steve Hansen was shot down in Vietnam in 1967. “She was motivated to do something to help families of POW/MIA service members,” Newton said. “With other military spouses, she helped create the National League of Families of POW and MIAs, a nonprofit organization that is still in existence today.” 

Pointing to the nonprofit’s flag, Newton also explained that the silhouette is of Hickerson’s late husband, Maj. Hanson.  

“At a POW Welcome Home event in 1973, Carol just happened to be sitting next to a recently returned POW who leaned over and gave her a kiss on the cheek as she was crying to Tony Orlando singing ‘Tie A Yellow Ribbon,’” Newton continued. 

Jim and Carol Hickerson have been married for over 48 years, and they have three children and seven grandchildren.