Motorcyclists gather for vigil to spotlight nation's POW/MIA in Bike Week's closing days

Union Leader Correspondent
June 18. 2017 9:09PM
A sea of motorcyclists and veterans arrived in the parking lot at the town docks in Meredith for the annual Freedom Ride and Vigil. (BEA LEWS/UNION LEADER CORRESPONDENT)

Laconia’s Motorcycle Week wrapped up Sunday, celebrating its 94th anniversary with an action-packed 10 days.

One of the more touching moments came during the closing days, when hundreds of motorcyclists led by the New Hampshire State Police Motorcycle Unit roared into Meredith to take part in the annual Freedom Ride and Vigil.

As a giant-sized version of the stars and stripes held aloft by a pair of fire trucks billowed in the wind, motorcyclists, veterans, Blue and Gold Star families and their supporters passed beneath an equally large POW/MIA flag and crowded in to Hesky Park on Thursday.

Peg Cade, 91, of Tamworth, was the guest of honor. Her late brother, Jack Costa of Maryland, served in World War II and was shot down over Germany, where he was taken prisoner.

“He came home and had a wonderful life. Thank God for America, thank God for America,” Cade said.

The lakeside park is home to what has been dubbed “The Rock,” a boulder of granite and Winnipesaukee feldspar that marks the site of a weekly vigil held every Thursday night since Aug. 21, 1989, to spotlight the nation’s lack of effort to account for all military personnel who served in Vietnam and remain missing.

Maj. Gen. William Reddell, adjutant general of the New Hampshire National Guard, told the gathering that 460,000 soldiers remain unaccounted for from all conflicts, beginning with the Revolutionary War. The whereabouts of 1,611 servicemen who served in Southeast Asia remain unknown.

“We deal in facts, not war stories. We know for a fact live POWs have been left behind,” declared Bob Jones of Meredith, a Navy corpsman who served with the Marines in Vietnam and launched the local vigil.

Ninety-one-year-old Peg Cade of Tamworth was the guest of honor during the annual Freedom Ride and Vigil. her brother, Jack Costa of Maryland, served during World War II and was shot down over Germany and became a POW. (BEA LEWIS/UNION LEADER CORRESPONDENT)

Don Amorosi of South Glens Falls, N.Y., president of the Northeast POW/MIA Network, told the crowd the gathering was helping to lay the groundwork so that future generations of servicemen and women will know that their government will never desert them.

“As we honor POW/MIAs, returned and still waiting to come home, we aggressively pursue means to return the missing and protect those serving,” he said.

Reddell read a poignant letter from the son of an airman shot down over Vietnam.

“He had an appetite for life, liked bag pipes and Irish whiskey and rode broncs in the rodeo. I am resigned that he is almost surely dead, but it does not relieve you of the obligation to try and find out what happened to him,” Reddell read.

Amorosi said family members suffer further with the use of the term “DUSTWUN” — duty-status whereabouts unknown — stripping them of the moral dignity and international recognition that comes with the POW/MIA designation.

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