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POW/MIA servicemembers recognized at Minot



MINOT AIR FORCE BASE, N.D. -- Today is the official observance of National POW/MIA Recognition Day. 

Minot will honor Prisoners of War and Missing in Action servicemembers on Sept. 22, during a luncheon at 12:30 p.m. at the Jimmy Doolittle Center and retreat ceremony at 4:30 p.m. at the base flagpole. 

"This is a nationally recognized event Minot supports every year," said Capt. Michael Thompson, 5th Munitions Squadron and POW/MIA luncheon project officer. "It's our opportunity to honor those who have been and currently are a POW or MIA." 

The luncheon will host local former POWs. The keynote speaker is Col. Mike Roberts, 178th Fighter Wing vice commander, from Springfield Air National Guard Base, Ohio, and former Operation Desert Storm POW. 

Colonel Roberts (then captain) was taken prisoner when his plane was shot down while flying an offensive air strike over Iraq in January, 1991. He was not released until March 5, 1991. 

After the luncheon, people can hear Colonel Roberts speak at 2 p.m. at the base theater where he'll explain in detail what happened during his mission and his imprisonment. 

"To hear the story firsthand is a unique opportunity," said Captain Thompson. "Since he will have the HUD display and detail how he was shot down, it will be an intriguing event. Also, it's an opportunity for all Airmen to have a chance to interact with a POW from our generation. There will be a question-and-answer session." 

The opportunity for Colonel Roberts to speak is credited to Col. Gary Lane, 5th Maintenance Group commander. During Desert Storm, the two were stationed at the same unit, the 401st Tactical Fighter Wing, and have remained friends since. 

"Colonel Roberts is a true patriot in every sense of the word," said Colonel Lane. "Yes, he placed (and still does) himself in harm's way to protect our freedoms, but, more importantly, he kept the ideals of American patriots alive during his captivity and subsequent weeks of torture divulging no information to his interrogators. He's held in the highest regards by his former squadron mates and all of the 401st TFW (Provisional) who were at Doha, Qatar, from 1990 to 1991." 

The day will close with a retreat ceremony and a B-52 flyby at the base flag pole at 4:30 p.m. 

"The retreat is an opportunity for people to pay tribute to all POW/MIAs," said Captain Thompson. "This day is a tribute to those who have served, suffered and are still suffering." 
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