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April 12. 2014 7:13PM

Lee USA Speedway to honor POW/MIAs this afternoon

LEE - Before the races begin this year, area residents and veterans will take time to remember those who cannot enjoy the simple things.

A brief ceremony will be held today to unveil the newly installed chair, which will remain empty to signify the absence of Prisoners of War (POW) and those still Missing in Action (MIA). It is scheduled for noon before a variety of races begin at Lee USA Speedway on Route 125, around 1 p.m.

The first races of the season include the Governor's Cup 150 with ACT and The Mill, ACT, NE Classic Lites and NE Legend cars. In case of rain, the races will be rescheduled for April 19, according to the speedway's website.

The speedway is the latest place to set aside a chair, which is usually painted black and adorned with the POW/MIA insignia, in a place of honor. The gesture is not lost on those who have served, current members of the military or their families, according to Robert McGuigan, a member of Rolling Thunder New Hampshire Chapter 1.

"Almost all veterans are very happy to see that there are people and organizations that have not forgotten them, and their brothers and sisters who have served with them, and especially those that served and did not return,'' McGuigan said.

McGuigan, 59, of Hooksett, who served in the U.S. Air Force from 1973 to 1979, said the chair, like POW/MIA flags or markers, also serves a reminder for the public.

"Most people are not aware of how many missing American men and women there are from the various wars in our history,'' McGuigan said, adding many are surprised to learn that prisoners of war are not a thing of the past.

While there is a concerted effort to recover those classified as POW/MIA, there are still two people missing from the Gulf War in 1991, three from Iraq and one from Afghanistan - U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, now 28, who was taken captive by Taliban forces near the Pakistan border in 2009, according to the Rolling Thunder website.

According to the website of the U.S. Department of Defense's Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office, there are 83,299 personnel ''military and civilian'' still unaccounted from past conflicts, including 73,637 from World War II, 7,888 from the Korean War, 126 from the Cold War, 1,642 from the Vietnam War and six from Iraq and other conflicts.

For more information or to see an updated list of missing personnel who have been found, visit dtic.mil/dpmo.

McGuigan said Lee Speedway is paying for the cost of the chair while Rolling Thunder is providing the plaque to explain the significance and symbolism.

"All the organizations that we have worked with so far, have all sponsored the POW Chair of Honor,'' McGuigan said.


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