The nation honors today, Sept. 15, 2023, its still-missing heroes and those who languished in enemy captivity.
National POW/MIA Recognition Day was established under President Jimmy Carter in 1979. It is marked on the third Friday of September, and memorialized each year since by presidential proclamation.
"We honor the devotion and courage of all those missing and unaccounted for, renew our commitments to their families, and promise to never cease in our efforts to bring them home," President Joe Biden said yesterday in a statement issued by the White House.
A remarkable 81,000 Americans are still listed as Missing In Action, dating back to the American Revolution. The suffering endured by service members in enemy captivity still haunts many American families.
"POWs symbolize the nobility of those who fought our nation’s battles, even if they didn’t agree with the war," Bob Brudno of Quincy, Massachusetts, told Fox News Digital after speaking at an event on Friday to honor his late former POW brother.
U.S. Air Force Capt. Edward Alan Brudno of Quincy, Massachusetts, spent more than seven years as a prisoner of war in Hanoi. He took his own life four months after returning to the United States; he was suffering from what his familiy said was undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder. (Courtesy Bob Brudno)
Capt. Edward Alan Brudno was a 25-year-old U.S. Air Force pilot when he was forced to eject over North Vietnam on Oct. 18, 1965.
He was captured immediately.
Brudno spent more than seven years in captivity at the infamous Hanoi Hilton. He was returned to the United States as part of Operation Homecoming on Feb. 12, 1973.
"He could survive seven-and-a-half years as a POW but wasn’t able to survive more than four months of freedom." — Bob Brudno
Brudno took his own life on June 3, after suffering from what the family said was undiagnosed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
"He could survive seven-and-a-half years as a POW but wasn’t able to survive more than four months of freedom," said Bob Brudno.
A POW/MIA flag flies from the back of a motorcycle at the annual Blessing of the Bikes at Washington National Cathedral on May 26, 2023, in Washington, D.C. (Shannon Finney/Getty Images)
"Mistakes were made when he came home," he also said.
"The stigma was too great for him to admit there was a problem."
Capt. Brudno’s tragedy helped ensure that the nation took PTSD more seriously, in the hopes that fewer returning soldiers would suffer the same fate.
"He was the canary in the coal mine," said Bob Brudno.
The Brudno family has the small comfort of knowing that their loved one's death helped shine a light on the problems of PTSD.
Bob Brudno acknowledged the ongoing pain of the families of those still missing in action.
American POW soldiers are shown inside their jail cell at the Hanoi Hilton prior to their release March 29, 1973, in Hanoi, Vietnam. (David Hume Kennerly/Getty Images)
More of than 70,000 of the service members listed as missing in action served in World War II.
More than 40,000 were lost at sea, meaning it's unlikely they will ever be found.
Yet the effort to bring closure to the families of the nation's missing heroes continues daily. The POW/MIA Accounting Agency is a division of the Department of Defense devoted to finding and identifying these Americans' remains.
Advances in DNA research have accelerated the rate at which the missing are identified.
Cpl. James Hunt is the most recent service member missing in action to be identified by the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (as of Sept. 15, 2023).
"The missing are coming home every day, and we couldn't be happier." — Jake Comer, past American Legion national commander
Cpl. Hunt was a native of Illinois. He served in the U.S. Army Air Forces in World War II and went missing in the Philippines.
The agency is currently seeking his family members.
Judy Wade (center), the niece of Medal of Honor recipient Cpl. Luther Herschel Story, was honored by U.S. and South Korean officials in Washington, D.C., after the remains of her uncle, a Korean War hero, were identified 73 years after he was was listed as Missing in Action. (Courtesy Judy Wade/Story Family)
The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency experienced one if its most remarkable success stories earlier this year, when it identified the remains of Cpl. Luther Herschel Story, 73 years after he gave his life in the Korean War.
Cpl. Story received the Medal of Honor for his actions that day in 1950.
He was buried with full military honors in his home state of Georgia on Memorial Day 2023.
"The missing are coming home every day, and we couldn't be happier," Jake Comer, past American Legion national commander, told Fox News Digital.
Kerry J. Byrne is a lifestyle reporter with Fox News Digital.