ANNAPOLIS — A Vietnam vet who helped create the Carroll Vietnam Veterans Memorial wants to improve on a senator's effort to assure that military personnel who served in wars and still are unaccounted for won't be forgotten.
In a Senate hearing Friday, Westminster resident Richard F. Will Sr. suggested two amendments to a bill introduced by Sen. Larry E. Haines, R-Carroll, Baltimore, that would require municipal and county government office buildings and the State House in Annapolis to display the Prisoner Of War/Missing In Action flag during normal business hours.
Will, who ran unsuccessfully for commissioner last year, sug
gested the bill be amended to include the major veterans' memorials inthe state, such as the Korean and Vietnam Veterans' memorials in Baltimore.
He said the refusal of the commissions that built and maintain those memorials to fly the POW/MIA flag "is a disgrace to the citizens of Maryland" and an "insult to the families and friends of those listed as POWs or MIAs."
He also proposed that the flags at thebuildings and memorials be "properly lighted and flown 365 days a year, 24 hours a day, because our brothers and sisters are in captivity365 days a year, 24 hours a day."
More than 2,400 Americans, including at least 38 Marylanders, who served the country during wartime still are listed as prisoners of war or missing in action, says the bill's preamble. The National League of Families of American Prisonersand Missing in Southeast Asia reports 2,285 American servicemen and civilians remain unaccounted for.
Accounting for the prisoners andthe missing is a high government priority, Haines told the Economic and Environmental Affairs Committee.
"There's been progress made, but the pace has been slower than hoped," he said. "We want Maryland to take an active role. Flying the POW/MIA flag is one way to do it."
The state government and each county and municipality would have to spend about $35 for the flag, a black-and-white emblem depicting the profile of a prisoner against the background of a prisoner of war watchtower.
"It's a small price to pay for the long overdue recognition for those who are missing," said Haines, noting New Jersey enacted a similar bill in 1989. "The POW issue deserves the attention of the public and should keep the attention of the federal government."
For the last several years, the flag has been flown along with theAmerican flag over the White House and U.S. Departments of State, Defense and Veteran Affairs on a national recognition day.
"The importance lies not in the specific practice, but in the POW/MIA flag's continued visibility as a symbol of our nation's resolve," a National League of Families official wrote in a letter to Will.
The league was formed in 1970 to track down missing relatives.
A World War IIveteran complimented Haines for introducing the bill.
"Thank the Lord we have a senator who remembers veterans and respects what they have done," said Charles Blumenthal.
The chairman of the committee, Clarence W. Blount, D-Baltimore, also a World War II veteran, said it appeared the panel would approve the legislation. No one testifiedagainst the bill.