EDITOR’S NOTE: This is Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin’s column for Sept. 12, 2014:
This week, Joanne and I joined Americans across our state, our nation and the world as we remembered and paid tribute to lives lost on September 11, 2001. The day’s ceremonies at the State Capitol Complex and those held across the nation reminded us of the renewed sense of patriotism, courage and faith of America and her people, and continue to serve as a reminder to honor those who commit themselves to keep us safe and protect our freedoms.
The 13th anniversary of September 11 gives us an opportunity to refresh our focus on how important the men and women of the military are to our country and our way of life. Those who vow to defend our freedoms as members of the United States Armed Forces accept the sacrifices that come with that promise, and yet their commitment remains unwavering. We must thank them every chance we get.
Next week, our country will gather together again on September 19 for POW/MIA Recognition Day, a time to honor veterans who were prisoners of war and those who are still missing in action. It’s also an opportunity to provide our unwavering support for their families. According to the National League of POW/MIA Families, 17 West Virginians remain missing in action and each day, 17 families across the state are left to wonder of their loved one’s fate. As we enjoy the weekend and prepare for a new week, I ask all West Virginians to remember those 17 brave men and their families and pray they will someday be reunited.
Just last month a family in Marion County laid their loved one to rest after decades of painful, unanswered questions. On August 7, the remains of Army Corporal Alva Groves of Four States, West Virginia, were identified and returned to his family for burial with full military honors. Sixty-three years ago, Corporal Groves answered the call to serve our country during the Korean War, was captured as a POW in 1953 and made the ultimate sacrifice. Following dignified transfer ceremonies conducted planeside in Maryland, Corporal Groves was escorted by family, friends, military personnel, and the Patriot Guard Riders to his final resting place at the West Virginia National Cemetery in Grafton. There, the West Virginia Army National Guard Honor Team conducted a full military service.
It is my hope Corporal Groves’ family is at peace, knowing he now rests on West Virginia soil, and his patriotism and sacrifice did not go unnoticed or unappreciated.
While we can never fully comprehend the sacrifices made by our service men and women, prisoners of war, those missing in action or their families, we must always remember the sacrifices they have made and continue to make so that we may enjoy our freedoms each and every day. As we take time to remember all those who lost their lives on September 11 and POW/MIA Day, I encourage all West Virginians to take time to remember the sacrifices of our military men and women and their families and share their sincerest thanks with all who have served and continue to serve in our armed forces. Your countless sacrifices cannot and will never be forgotten.