Students in the Meridian Community College Culinary Arts Program gathered with campus and community on a bright September morning as somber notes of To the Color played in the background.
Standing at the steps at the Ivy Hall flag plaza, they watched the POW/MIA flag raised on Friday at Meridian Community College.
Culinary student Laquoria Young brought his son, Zavion, 2, to watch the ceremony as well as pay tribute to his classmate Robert Tabb who is a veteran. Though they did not have class on Friday, the students in the culinary program came to participate in solidarity.
“I’m amazed they have a ceremony to do this,” Tabb said. “Just to do it because it is right, it’s important to me and that so many people showed up,” he added.
Alannah Smith, another culinary student, stood by her grandfather, Danny R. Smith, another veteran, who also witnessed the flag-raising ceremony honoring the POW/MIAs.
“This is the day to remember those Americans who were prisoners of war and those who are missing in action, as well as their families,” said Pam Baranello, MCC veterans and military services coordinator.
MCC stepped up to the challenge issued to all community colleges by the Eastern North Carolina POW/MIA Recognition Day Awareness Committee to fly this specially created flag on Sept. 20.
The flag features a white disk bearing in black silhouette a man’s bust, a watchtower with a guard on patrol and a strand of barbed wire. The white letters POW and MIA with a white five-pointed star in between stand out above the disk. Below the disk is a black and white wreath with the motto “You Are Not Forgotten” written.
MCC President Dr. Thomas Huebner said, “We are so thankful for the men and women who serve our country in the military. Because they wake up every morning with the thought that they might have to give everything so we can have what we have, and we are very grateful.”
He recited the number - 75,501 - of those still missing in action, including those from World War II, Korean Conflict Vietnam, Cold War, Desert Storm and Iriquae Freedom. From Mississippi, 786 are missing. “Spouses, family members, friends, children and grandchildren wake up every day and wonder,” he said.
Dr. Huebner added, “The least we can do is to recognize their service and sacrifice.”
Photo: Zavion Young, with flag in his hand, sits on the shoulders of his dad Laquoria Young, while the ceremony at the MCC flag plaza pays tribute to POW/MIAs.