Candles in luminaria jars flickered as darkness fell over Reynoldsburg Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 9473 color guard members standing vigil at the post's POW/MIA memorial.

The annual vigil -- held Sept. 15 this year -- started at 7 p.m. and continued until midnight.

"You don't ever want to forget," said John Waibel, captain of the color guard. "It's easier to forget them when they don't come home. We cannot let the memory of those people die."

The vigil honors military personnel who were prisoners of war or are missing in action. National POW/MIA Recognition Day is observed on the third Friday in September each year.

Waibel said each VFW member served 15-minute shifts during the vigil, with one member walking to guard the memorial and two others standing at attention.

"The cost of war extends well beyond the end of war," VFW State Commander Robert Giannone said during the opening ceremony. "It is not too much to ask what happened to these loved ones and not too much for our government to answer."

He said a POW/MIA accounting agency "works 24/7" to locate prisoners of war or military personnel missing in action.

"They work to fulfill a soldier's promise to never leave a fallen comrade behind on the battlefield," he said. "Their mission continues because there are still 83,000 missing American servicemen."

Color guard member Tina Roush sang the national anthem before the ceremony.

"I like that we promote patriotism, especially in these times, and that we help in giving last rites to fellow service members," she said.

Others participating in the vigil included members of five other VFW posts and Civil Air Patrol Cadets from the Captain Eddie Rickenbacker Composite Squadron.

Squadron Commander Allen Verplatse brought four Civil Air Patrol cadets from his squadron of 19.

"We want them to learn and understand the sacrifices that were made and how we got here today," he said.

Verplatse said the Civil Air Patrol was formed during the earliest days of World War II to protect the nation's shorelines from invading German U-boats.

"We promote aviation and related fields through aerospace/STEM education and help shape future leaders," Verplatse said.

Cadet Master Alexander Hall attends New Albany High School.

"Civil Air Patrol is giving me a lot of leadership experience," he said. "The patrol prepares you for military discipline, and if you don't want to join the military, the program prepares you for life."

Giannone said the sacrifices of military personnel should not be forgotten.

"As department commander, my mission is to make sure no-one forgets their service," he said.

Fred Lavery, VFW state judge advocate, said education also is important.

"We want to continue to teach the public to appreciate the patriots that went before us," he said.

Chuck Keller, from the VFW National Council of Administration, said, "As veterans, we need to help the public remember these heroes."

Waibel said the Post 9473 color guard presided over 117 funerals last year.

"We also do flag presentations in the schools and ceremonies on Memorial Day," he said. "We do at least 25 events each year."

He said people have to remember the men and women who never came home.

"The more a society cares about people that are missing, the more moral that society is," he said.

pwillis@thisweeknews.com

@PamelaThisWeek