When we drive past the post office Sept. 14, we will see a black flag flying in the spot usually reserved for the stars and stripes. The somber black flag will be there out of respect for POW/MIA Remembrance Day.
This flag reminds us of the sacrifices others have made for us -- those who were prisoners of war and those who are still missing in action.
The flag, which is flown over federal buildings several times a year to honor these special citizens, was created through the efforts of a wife whose husband was missing in action. She and others wanted a visible reminder of the plight of POW/MIAs.
Former prisoners of war who returned to talk about it sometimes tell chilling tales of torture and abuse. Many of them are still prisoners, in one way or another, as they deal with problems associated with their capture.
The families of former POWs and MIAs made a sacrifice, too, which is often underappreciated.
Some service families feel blessed, or lucky, when their loved ones return, and make a special effort to honor those who were not so fortunate.
My Grand Uncle Mumford was, perhaps, among the "lucky" ones. He returned from war minus an arm and part of a leg, but he never complained. He lived to a ripe old age, driving his ancient, immense Ford to the grocery store once a week and to church on Sundays.
Uncle Mumford didn't talk about the war, and we were told not to ask, but there was a feeling of sadness among the children that such a kind old man would have given up so much.
Still, he was lucky compared with some. He returned home and his family was there to help.
Thousands of families haven't had that chance to help because their loved ones haven't come home.
A scan of some of the internet sites, like the National League of Families, show there are plenty of people out there searching for any small bit of information. They want to know what happened to their loved ones, and they want to bring them home.
It's helpful that new technology is aiding in efforts to identify remains around the world so soldiers can return and be laid to rest in the country they fought for.
Sometimes the wars seem distant, but they are very much real and touch all our lives.
According to the POW/MIA Web site, one of Thomson's own native sons, who gave his life in Vietnam, was returned to America after two decades. Thomas Franklin Case disappeared May 31, 1966, in Laos while serving with the Air Force. He came home to rest 20 years later, in April 1986, according to a Web site maintained by a military wife dedicated to helping the MIA cause. Records show there are still more than 30 Georgia soldiers from Vietnam War who have not yet come home.
What touches America touches all of us, whether we live in big cities or small towns.