As the United States readies for a new war against terrorism, Col. Chuck Fulkerson asked those gathered Friday to remember the nation's prisoners of war and soldiers missing in action and to remember America has changed in the past week.
"America cannot go back to business as usual," said Fulkerson, Nevada's Veterans Affairs coordinator. "We must remain steadfast and resolute just as the POWs remained steadfast and resolute."
But even as the nation prepares to respond to the terrorist attacks in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., Fulkerson said those sent in harm's way must be protected as best they can.
"We must look to our national leaders and make sure their actions do not create a new generation of MIAs, POWs and Gold Star mothers," he said.
Fulkerson asked the crowd gathered behind the state Capitol at the Veterans Memorial to remember the nation's "unremembered heroes" - former prisoners of war and those still missing in action from prior conflicts.
The occasion was the annual POW-MIA Recognition Day ceremony organized by Tom Baker, former longtime aide to Sen. Richard Bryan and a Vietnam veteran.
Fulkerson said there was little emphasis on POWs and those missing during World War II and only a small amount of attention following the Korean War.
But after Vietnam, he said, the POWs who returned were greeted by cheering crowds.
"I remember the huge outreach," he said.
But even so, he said they "were discharged, processed out and got back to their lives - unremembered heroes.
"But you didn't let them forget," he told the veterans attending the ceremony. He said now there are efforts to try find even those missing for decades, even a joint U.S.-Russia commission on POWs and MIAs. He urged them to continue pressure on the Congress to support efforts to find out what happened to those still missing.
That call was highlighted by Ted "Tugboat" Deems, who called on veterans to remain "steadfast in our unyielding demand for a full accounting of their fate."
The ceremony concluded with the playing of taps for those killed or missing in action by Rick James before the Carson High School Naval ROTC Color Guard. The annual flyover by Navy fighter lets from Fallon was canceled this year.