Emotional POW-MIA ceremony reinforces bond of soldiers, families

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Saturday, September 19, 2009
— Theresa Biele went to the ceremony because she didn’t have to.

That’s a lot to be grateful for.

Biele was one of about 30 people who attended the POW-MIA ceremony Friday night at Janesville’s Traxler Park.

The Janesville mom’s voice shook just a little when she talked about why she goes.

“My sons are in the military,” Biele said. “These Vietnam veterans are so very supportive of our boys. I’m here to support them.”

Biele’s son, Tim, is serving his second tour of duty in Iraq. Her other son, Nick, also served two tours.

Biele is grateful for the outward show of support she sees for the American military. Her heart goes out to the mothers of the veterans who came home from Vietnam to a cold welcome.

Even harder to comprehend is the pain of the families whose loved ones never come home, whether they were killed in combat or made a prisoner of war, Biele said.

“It’s hard to understand,” she said. “There’s no closure for them.”

Local veterans support the families of active military members in many ways, including by talking about veterans benefits and support services, Biele said. Veterans greet soldiers returning from military tours, she said.

The annual ceremony was short but emotional. A warm, fall breeze blew and geese flew overhead as veterans read the names of Wisconsin prisoners of war and people listed as missing in action.

Kathy Kettle and her husband, John, a Vietnam veteran, read a fictional conversation between a mother and her son. As the story unfolds, it becomes apparent that the mother is writing letters that never get delivered.

The son, who is a prisoner of war, is imagining letters he wants to send home.

The poignant story made Kathy Kettle choke up, even though she read the same passage last year.

Kettle participates in the annual ceremony to honor her father, Dale Lawton, formerly of Janesville. Lawton was a prisoner of war in the Bataan Death March, Kettle said.

The 70-mile march took place in 1942 in the Philippines when American and Filipino soldiers were forced to march to a Japanese war prisoner camp.

Thousands died or were killed along the way.

Lawton was nearly blind from malnourishment when he came home, Kettle said.

But he never talked about the experience.

“We don’t ever want to forget,” Kettle said.

Last updated: 11:20 am Thursday, December 13, 2012

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