A small crowd gathered in front of the Highland County Courthouse on Friday to honor and remember prisoners of war and members of the military who went missing in action.
The ceremony, during which the POW/MIA flag was presented, was one of many held across the nation in observance of National POW/MIA Recognition Day.
Russ Rover of VFW Post 9094 and Kevin Barreras of Chapter 123 of the Disabled American Veterans and Veterans Service Commission spoke briefly about the meaning of POW/MIA day, with Barreras saying there are currently 83,000 members of the U.S. military unaccounted for throughout the world.
Many people driving uptown throughout the day Friday may have noticed Ron Wernke, a local Vietnam War veteran, sitting in a bamboo cage in front of the courthouse.
Wernke sat in the cage for most of the day and throughout the ceremony as a physical representation of what Barreras called the “suffering and sacrifice” of those who were captured.
Local veterans and citizens were on hand for the event, as well as the families of two local men who were prisoners of war in World War II.
Cpl. Harold Caplinger was a prisoner of war in Nazi Germany for 15 months, and was able to return home after the war ended. He passed away two and a half years ago at the age of 95. Caplinger’s wife, Marjorie, and two of her nieces were in attendance.
Staff Sgt. Louis Earl Kelch was captured by Nazi forces and held in Austria as a prisoner of war for 13 months. He died in 2000 at age 78.
Kelch’s children, Daryl Kelch and Cheryl Lyle, attended the ceremony with their families.
Also remembered Friday was PFC Neil R. Scott, a Hillsboro High School graduate who never returned home after the Korean War ended. He was captured by North Korean forces and held in captivity until he died on Jan. 31, 1951. His remains have never been recovered.
The group sang the national anthem, recited the Pledge of Allegiance and held a moment of silence. The Highland County Honor Guard conducted a flag ceremony.
Reach David Wright at 937-402-2570, or on Twitter @DavidWrighter.
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