REGION — Veterans, community members and others gathered in Farmington and Jay Friday evening, Sept. 17, to remember National POW/MIA Recognition Day.

James A. McKechnie VFW Post 10881 held a service for National POW/MIA Recognition Day in Farmington Friday, Sept. 17. Member Doug Hand at left strikes a bell after some of the names of the almost 200 servicemen whose remains were returned in the last year are read. Also seen from left are LLoyd Leeman, Rodney Titcomb and Glenn Durrell. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

It had been at least eight years, maybe more since a service was held in Farmington, James A. McKechnie VFW Post 10881 Commander Gordon Webber said prior to the service. In  the last 12 months close to 200 remains have been brought back so they can be reunited with their families, he noted.

Katie Smith sang the National Anthem, then Webber explained the significance of the items found on the Table for One.

“The point is to be here and remember these guys,” Webber said. “Always be mindful, never forget their sacrifice.”

Random names from among those whose remains have been returned in the last year were read by Webber with a bell rung after each name.

Webber also spoke of the USS Indianapolis, a ship that in July of 1945 sailed alone from San Francisco to a small island carrying the elements of the atomic bombs later dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

“It had no escort, they were full bore,” Webber said. “They made it in record time. It’s never been broken since. They didn’t know what they were carrying. The ship was torpedoed coming back to Pearl (Harbor). It went down in like 10 minutes.

“A lot of those guys never made it,” he noted. “They’re probably in the deepest part of the Pacific Ocean.”

Later in Jay, United Bikers of Maine and New Hampshire plus bikers from the American Legion Post in Winthrop took part in the 30th POW/MIA ceremony at the POW/MIA Remembrance Bridge Monument of all Wars. The bikers met in Turner and arrived in Jay just before 6:30 p.m.

John Bernardi Jr. at left parks his bike prior to attending the 30th National POW/MIA Recognition Day ceremony in Jay Friday, Sept. 17. He is the Lincoln County Maine director of United Bikers of Maine and also represents the United Bikers of New Hampshire. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

A moment of silence was held in memory of Eric Fuller of Jay who died unexpectedly in July. A Navy veteran, he was a member of V.F.W. Post #3335 and Amvets Post #33 in Jay and for more than 20 years had led the bikers to the POW/MIA service.

“Eric, may you ride in peace,” VFW Judge Advocate Jim Manter then said.

Rose and John Dyke of Canton were recognized. Her brother, John Moore of Bryant Pond has been missing since May 13, 1969.

Also noted were Juanita Crafts of Livermore and other family members. Juanita’s husband Charles Crafts was a POW in Vietnam for 787 days.

Veteran and local musician Paul Bright sang several patriotic songs before and during the service.

For the 30th year, a National POW/MIA Recognition Day event was held in Jay Friday, Sept. 17. Pictured from left are John Dube, Dave Lachappelle, Clyde Pingree, Jim Manter, Don Frechette, Larry Bilodeau and Paul Bright. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

Manter shared details of Air Force Capt. John Nutting Sr. of Leeds and his involvement in ‘Black Tuesday’.

“In September of 1951, U.S. aerial reconnaissance discovered a build-up of 18 new North Korean jet-capable airfields,” Manter said. “The United States decided to destroy the airfields before they became operational. The largest of these airfields was Namsi. With new concrete runways, the airfield would have the capability to stage jet aircraft.

“On the morning of October 23, 1951, nine B-29 Superfortresses took off from Kadena Air Base in Okinawa to strike the airfield at Namsi,” he noted. “They were in three flight wings, call sign Able, Baker, and Charlie; consisting of 3 aircraft in each wing. Nutting was in Flight Wing Able. Russians attacked the B-29s, and the result was that six of the nine American aircraft were lost.

“It was the highest percentage of U.S. bombers ever lost in a single mission, hence this day became known as “Black Tuesday,” Manter continued. “There were numerous casualties. Captain Nutting’s B-29 was last seen in a spiral heading back to earth. The result of Capt. Nutting and his aircrew were seven MIA, three POW and three killed. Nutting was MIA.”

United Bikers of Maine and New Hampshire plus bikers from the American Legion Post in Winthrop take part in the 30th National POW/MIA Recognition Day service in Jay Friday, Sept. 17. Seen from left are Carl Holbrook, Pat White with his terrier Roxie, and Snoopy Butler. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

This year has been a challenge for all, Manter said. “Our lives have been impacted by national issues we could have never predicted. Tonight is the 30th consecutive year we gather here and take pause of our daily lives, to remember the sacrifices and service of those who were Prisoners of War and those Missing In Action and most importantly, their families.”

These comrades are unable to be with their loved ones and families tonight, Manter noted.

“So we join with their families in this humble tribute,” he said. “As a community, we should consider it a duty to come together to show our support and admiration for our local friends and families who have sacrificed so much.

“Until the last POW/MIA is returned, we will be their voice to let our nation know we have not forgotten them,” he added.

Guest speaker Congressman Jared Golden was unable to attend due to a last minute scheduling change. He did send a letter.

“We must all remember, those who have suffered at the hands of our enemies, particularly our fellow Mainers, who are still unaccounted for,” Manter read. “May their memories be a daily presence in our lives, as we pray for them. America is made stronger because of brave heroes like them.”

A wreath was placed at the monument, then members of Amvets Post 33 gave a 21-gun salute and Amvets Commander Wayne Buckingham played taps. VFW Post 3335 Auxiliary President Lynn Dunton gave a closing prayer.

“Thanks to all of you for your continued commitment to our POW/MIA event, especially to those who have worn the cloth of our nation,” Manter said in closing. “Let us remember. We will never forget.”

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