Last month, a Hoosier hero came home to his final rest.
A Hoosier veteran from World War II was brought to his home state after nearly 70 years buried in a sandy, unmarked grave on an island in the South Pacific.
Pfc. Manley Forrest Winkley and some 1,100 other Marines lost their lives capturing a key airstrip on Tarawa Atoll island during the three-day Battle of Tarawa in 1943. The 20-year-old Winkley took a fatal gunshot wound to the neck on Nov. 20, 1943, the first day of assaulting the Japanese stronghold, according to casualty records kept by a military chaplain.
A pathology report said he was buried during combat, but his remains were not recovered and moved with other causalities after the battle was over.
His remains were discovered and identified only last year.
Winkley was buried Aug. 24, in the Indiana Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Madison. During a procession from Nashville through Columbus and North Vernon to Madison, thousands of police and fire personnel, veterans and members of the general public turned out to pay their respects.
The ceremony honoring Winkley is a heartfelt reminder that America should never forget its war dead.
In November, we will celebrate Veterans Day. It is a way to remember and honor those who served the country in the military and continue to serve today at home and abroad.
In May, Memorial Day is set aside to honor all those who gave their lives in defense of the country.
On both occasions, we occasionally remember another segment of troops. But they are seldom singled out. These are the prisoners of war and those troops who remain missing in action. But they, too, have a special day.
Congress has declared that the third Friday in September each year shall be National POW/MIA Recognition Day. This year, that day is Friday.
When most people think of troops taken prisoner or missing in action, they envision the Korean and Vietnam wars. That is because of the large number that remained unaccounted for years after those wars ended. But National POW/MIA Recognition Day is meant to remember all troops from all conflicts.
Winkley is a good example. While he was buried in an unmarked grave, his passing did not go unmourned, and he was not forgotten.
Marking National POW/MIA Recognition Day each year is a way to remember the sacrifices of those members of our armed forces and to show our continuing resolve to bring them all home.
However, just as we shouldn’t limit recognition of military personnel past and present just one or two times a year, we shouldn’t restrict our remembrance of those missing in action on just this day. We should remember all of them and their sacrifice throughout the year.