National POW/MIA Recognition Day

Established in 1979 and commemorated annually on the third Friday in September, National POW/MIA Recognition Day is a day on which Americans are encouraged to pause and remember the sacrifices of prisoners of war and members of the military who are missing in action. It is a day on which American military installations all over the world raise the flag and on which many different veteran organizations hold rallies. And since the remains of almost 82,000 Americans are still missing, it is a very somber day on many people’s calendars.

The Number Of Americans Missing In Action

According to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, there are 81,900 Americans who remain missing as of 2020. Seventy-five percent of those Americans are missing in the Indo-Pacific, with a significant number also lost in Europe. These Americans remain missing from conflicts that include WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and the Gulf Wars, among others.

The History Of National POW/MIA Recognition Day

This day was established by a proclamation from U.S. President Jimmy Carter in 1979. Since then, every U.S. president has declared the third Friday in September as National POW/MIA Recognition Day. Every year since the late 1990s, the POW/MIA accounting community has also created a poster that commemorates this day.

On November 18, 1997, President Clinton signed the Defense Authorization Act. Section 1082 of that act mandates that the White House, the U.S. Capitol, the Department of State, Defense, and Veterans Affairs, all federal cemeteries, the U.S. post office, and the National Vietnam Veterans and Korean War Memorials all must fly the POW/MIA flag.

The History Of The National League of Families’ POW/MIA Flag

On May 28, 1970, in the District of Columbia, the National League of Families of American Prisoners and Missing in Southeast Asia was officially incorporated. Associate membership of this group consists of veterans and extended family members of POW, MIA, or KIA service members. In 1972, Newt Heisley designed the flag, and Evelyn Grubb oversaw its development and campaigned for its widespread acceptance.

How Is This Day Commemorated?

One of the main ways that this day is commemorated is by the national ceremony that has been traditionally held at the Pentagon. This ceremony features members from every branch of the U.S. military, as well as high-ranking officials. This day is also commemorated on U.S. military installations around the globe, as well as on U.S. ships and at veterans’ facilities. These facilities not only fly the American flag on this day but also the National League of Families’ POW/MIA Flag.

Schools around the U.S. also commemorate this day to focus their students on the Americans currently missing. There are also usually a lot of veteran rallies all over the U.S. on this day. Because this is an observance day and not a federal holiday, banks, government offices, and businesses remain open on this day.

Where is it celebrated?
United States (Observance)
When is it?
This year (2024)
September 20 Friday
Next year (2025)
September 19 Friday
Last year (2023)
September 15 Friday
Appreciation & Honor, Awareness & Cause