America's list of missing consists of more than 83,000.

WASHINGTON — As Americans gather this Friday to commemorate National POW/MIA Recognition Day, the country's oldest and largest major combat veterans' organization wants America to also remember the families of more than 83,000 missing since World War II.‪ 

"The war continues every day for MIA families, even though almost seven decades have passed for many," said Richard L. DeNoyer, the new national commander of the 2 million-member Veterans of Foreign Wars of the U.S. and its Auxiliaries. 

"Every day the families relive the moment they were first notified, and every day they continue to hold out hope that new information will be uncovered that will lead to the recovery and return of their loved one," he said.  "The responsibility is on all of us to never forget those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, and to comfort and support those who still grieve in silence."‪ 

DeNoyer, a retired Marine and Vietnam combat veteran from Middleton, Mass., said that because the number of missing is so great, the circumstance of loss so catastrophic, and the location of loss so vast, that the odds are tremendously against America to recover everyone, but he said that monumental challenge just strengthens the VFW's resolve and support of U.S. military and government organizations involved in the Full Accounting Mission.‪ 

America's list of missing consists of more than 73,000 from World War II, 8,000 from Korea, 1,680 from Vietnam, 120 from the Cold War, and one each in Iraq and Afghanistan. 

Leading the operational search and recovery effort is the Hawaii-based Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command.  They are supported by the Defense POW/Missing Personnel Office — which provides archival research and analysis and overall policy guidance — as well as the U.S-Russia Joint Commission on POW/MIAs, the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory, the Air Force Life Science Equipment Laboratory, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the U.S. State Department, individual service casualty officers, and the military services who augment the JPAC teams with linguists and specialists trained in everything from combat medicine and explosive ordinance disposal to mountain climbing and deep sea diving. 

DeNoyer said the VFW and family organizations — such as the National League of POW/MIA Families — assist U.S. government search efforts by opening doors politicians and bureaucrats cannot. 

The VFW has traveled to Vietnam annually since 1991 to meet with their military veterans as well as their political leadership to stress the humanitarian aspect of the Full Accounting Mission.  Annual trips to Russia were added in 2004, which will hopefully enhance archival research efforts and finding eyewitnesses who may have information on hundreds if not thousands of Americans who disappeared behind the old Iron Curtain.  Visits to the People's Republic of China were also added over the past few years, as well.‪ 

"The door the VFW opens is through an open exchange focused entirely on one goal — to help return our fallen to their families.  Our relationship with foreign veterans' organizations is based on mutual recognition and acceptance because, politics aside, a vet is a vet, and all who have worn the uniform of their country understand a soldier's promise to never leave a fallen comrade on the battlefield," he said.‪ 

"America’s Full Accounting Mission is a nonpolitical, humanitarian mission at its soul," said DeNoyer.  "It is a national priority that President Obama and his predecessors have pledged to continue until we have achieved the fullest possible accounting of all our missing Americans.  We do this mission to honor our pledge to the fallen; we do this mission to reaffirm to those currently serving that America will bring you home; and ultimately, America conducts this worldwide humanitarian mission to support American families who also served and sacrificed."‪ 

[Note: A suggested POW/MIA Recognition Day speech is available in the VFW member's login section of www.vfw.org.]