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PHOTOS: Vale ceremony recognizes prisoners of war, missing in action

State Sen. Lynn Findley of Vale and Cliff Bentz, an Ontario attorney running for Congress, reveal one of ten signs to be installed along U.S. Highway 26. The sign reads “POW/MIA Memorial Highway” and depicts the National League of Families PIO/MIA flag, which says, “You are not forgotten.” (The Enterprise/Ardeshir Tabrizian)

VALE – A new highway sign honoring Oregon’s prisoners of war and people missing in action was unveiled at a ceremony in Vale on Friday Sept. 18, National POW/MIA Recognition Day. 

A request made by the non-profit Bend Heroes Foundation to the Oregon Legislature in 2019 gave way to the new POW/MIA Memorial Highway, which stretches across the state on U.S. Highway 26 between Seaside and Vale, a Facebook post by the foundation said. 

The ceremony took place in front of the Malheur County Courthouse in Vale, one of six Oregon cities along the highway where such events were held that day to dedicate the signs, the Facebook post said. 

Charles Schmidt, American Legion Past National Commander, addresses the crowd. Schmidt introduced several speakers, including Bentz, Findley, state representative Mark Owens and Vale Mayor Mike McLaughlin.

McLaughlin shakes hands with Schmidt after delivering a speech. The pair stand between the U.S. flag and the National League of Families PIO/MIA flag.

The Bend Heroes Foundation and its partners raised nearly $20,000 to pay the state’s Department of Transportation “to fabricate and install” 10 POW/MIA Memorial Highway signs, according to the Facebook post.

The memorial highway’s purpose is to recognize Oregon’s 920 prisoners of war and 999 people who are still missing in action and declared dead from World War I to the Vietnam War, the Facebook post said. It is also to “educate the traveling public and let the families of POWs and MIAs know Oregon supports their hopes and prayers for the return of their loved one’s remains.”

“Over the last 37 years the remains of only 42 Oregon MIAs have been ‘Accounted For’ – recovered, identified and returned to families,” the Facebook post said.

Members of the American Legion Post 96 Honor Guard fire blank shots into the air following the reveal of the new highway sign.