AMERICUS (Oct. 22, 2013)--Every year, all former American prisoners of war, those still missing in action, and their families are honored on National POW/MIA Recognition Day, observed on the third Friday of September. And for the past several years, Sumter County has been a center for this remembrance with the help of The Ride Home, Inc. and its cofounder, Jim “Moe” Moyer.
In Sumter County, the National POW/MIA Recognition Day has expanded to be a weekend affair. The weekend is marked by the sounds of motorcycles and the black and white POW/MIA flags. The Vietnam Memorial Traveling Wall is installed on the Georgia Southwestern State University campus, while convocations are held where former POWs give speeches about their experiences. The Ride Home pays for the POWs and their families to make the trip to the recognition event from all across the nation.
One of The Ride Home’s cofounders, Moe Moyer, has spent the last few decades dedicating his time to bring awareness to the issues of former POWs and MIAs and ensure that those who served our country receive the appreciation they deserve.
The Ride Home was established in 2001 and was inspired by the Presidential Proclamation that is released each year for the National POW/MIA Recognition Day. Moyer, along with some friends who are veterans, was at Andersonville that year. With the Proclamation, calling upon “all Americans to join in honoring all former American prisoners of war, those still missing, and their families who have made extraordinary sacrifices on behalf of our country [and]… upon State and local officials and private organizations to observe this day with every appropriate ceremony and activity,” still fresh in his mind, Moyer, along with the National Park of Andersonville, created the event now known as The Ride Home.
During the first year, The Ride Home brought a couple of POWs to Andersonville during the National POW/MIA Recognition Day. The former POWs spoke about their experiences at Andersonville with some help from Georgia Southwestern. As the years went by, the event has expanded in size and in location. The Ride Home is now able to bring 120 to 150 participants each year. The Ride Home is funded by donation, and since its first event in 2002, it has raised over $1.1 million to bring former POWs and their families to Americus.
The Ride Home event is part of the “Honor, Release, Return” organization. Moyer explained, “Honor, Release, Return” stands for “bringing honor back to our government, releasing those being held against their will, and returning the remains, if they expired in the control of the enemy… so we can have some closure for our families.” To achieve these goals, “Honor, Release, Return” has worked with the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) and the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personal Office (DPMO) to increase accountability. Moyer explained, “we are dealing with them to get the numbers fixed and get the accountability moved up.”
This year’s event recognized three anniversaries: the 60th anniversary of the end of the Korean War with the signing of the Korean Armistice in 1953; the 40th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam War with the signing of the Paris Peace Accords in 1973; and the ten year anniversary of the Iraq POWs who were captured and released in 2003.
- GSW -