Missouri’s National Veterans Memorial played host to a special guest Friday.
Noel Freesh, a board member with the Jefferson Barracks POW-MIA Museum in St. Louis, made the drive south to the memorial site to present the City of Perryville with a proclamation naming the city a POW-MIA city, making it one of 35 cities in four states to receive the honor recognizing the city for its efforts to raise awareness of former military prisoners of war and those still missing in action.
“It means that the city is committed to remembering and memorializing both the service member and their family,” said Noel Freesh, a retired Army lieutenant colonel and member of the Military Officers Association of America who serves on the museum board. “And they do that by flying the flag where the city flag or the U.S. colors are flown. And to have a highway entrance sign and to have at least one memorial event a year.”
On hand to receive the proclamation was Perryville Mayor Ken Baer, a former Navy officer, and MNVM executive director Nancy Guth.
“We’re recognizing the sacrifice our veterans made and keeping their legacy alive on a 24/7 basis,” Baer said. “Our American heritage is based on patriotism and sacrifice and service to our country. The veterans have demonstrated that over time and what we need to do at this moment is continue that heritage, to keep that awareness out there.”
According to Freesh, that’s one of the requirements for being designated a POW-MIA city.
“That’s one of the things we ask them to do that they may or may not be doing already, adding an educational program specifically about POWs and MIAs,” Freesh said. “In a perfect world, they would do it on the third Friday of September, which is National POW-MIA Day. Other cities do it in connection with Memorial Day or Veterans Day or Fourth of July or some other event where they can do it.”
Freesh said some cities develop programs directed to students, while others put on a traveling program of sorts, visiting meetings of local Rotary, Kiwanis and Lions Clubs, along with various other civic organizations.
“The local history clubs or historical society might have that as one of their regular programs and do it when they can do it,” Freesh said. “That’s what we ask. They put the proclamation up in city hall and that they put the sign up at one entrance to the city or another appropriate place.”
According to its mission statement, the Jefferson Barracks POW-MIA Museum, formed in 2011 and located at 16-18 Hancock Ave. in St. Louis, “seeks to reverently honor all who served our country in any branch of the United States military who were captured by enemies of the United States or who are missing in action from any year and from any conflict,” in addition to raising awareness of the numbers of captured Americans who returned, those who died in captivity and service personnel who are still missing.
The city’s board of aldermen gave its approval to pursue the designation in August, after hearing discussion on the matter, initially spearheaded by local veterans advocate Mike Lundy and state Rep. Rick Francis. After reviewing the requirements, the board unanimously approved the effort.
“I’m just proud to see someone take that over and get it completed,” said Lundy. “I don’t think that we can do enough for our veterans. This is just another way to remember their sacrifice and their service. I’m just proud to be a part of our community and support our veterans.”
Lundy was also instrumental in helping the city gain recognition as a Purple Heart City through a petition to the city board. Baer issued a proclamation to that effect on Nov. 10, 2018, and presented Lundy with the first of several signs that would be placed around the community.
“I just hope that when you see these, you’ll remember the sacrifices these veterans made,” Lundy said at the ceremony.