Thursday, May 23 2013 11:28 PM EDT2013-05-24 03:28:07 GMT
Authorities said they broke up a huge drug operation in the Tennessee Valley. Twenty people were arrested Thursday morning and two more are charged in what investigators called overlapping drug ringsMore >>
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HUNTSVILLE, AL (WAFF) -
The nation will honor service members who were prisoners of war or missing in action for National POW/MIA Recognition Day on Friday.
It is a day that the president asks Americans to observe every year.
This year, the Vietnam Veterans of America Huntsville chapter will host an honorary ceremony for POW and MIA veterans at the Madison County Veterans Memorial in Huntsville at 10 a.m.
Warren Harmon, president of the VVA Huntsville chapter, said the ceremony will honor POW service members who died while in captivity and also those who have survived.
"A lot of people don't know it but there's still over 88,000 men and women still unaccounted for going all the way back to World War II," Harmon said.
Harmon, along with the Support Company, 508th Airborne Regimental Combat Team Association, will gather at the memorial to remember thousands of service members who were imprisoned during or war or missing while in action.
Among those who survived is 89-year-old World War II veteran Rothacker Smith.
Now a Madison resident, Smith was an original Black Buffalo soldier stationed in Italy during World War II.
In 1944, Smith said the Germans captured him and held him prisoner for four months. Just one day prior, stray shrapnel from a shell explosion peppered the building he was in and injured him.
"The crazy bone on my right hand got hit so this hand was numb, and so I could feel blood running down both legs," Smith recalled.
But Smith endured and after his months-long imprisonment, he was transported to Austria at a Stalag camp. He still has his tag from that time.
"I had been praying and I felt an answer from heaven and I stopped being afraid," Smith said.
His experience is what younger veterans today strive to never forget.
"We care about all veterans, not just the Vietnam veterans," Warren said.
Smith will be at Friday's ceremony. The ceremony will also serve as a reunion for the 508th ARCT. The POW/MIA memorial service is open to the public.
The Alabama Veterans Museum in Athens will also hold a ceremony at 10 a.m.