By GOV. JOE MANCHIN

CHARLESTON -- As the United States continues to fight wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, we must remember our brave young men and women in uniform.

Historically, West Virginia is one of the most patriotic states in our nation - sending more of our men and women into battle in defense of our country's democracy than most states. And, today is no different.

I recently visited with members of the 821st Engineering Company and their families before they were deployed to support Operation Iraqi Freedom. What an amazing group of individuals, and I applaud their resolute dedication to our nation.

Attending a deployment or a homecoming really puts a face to war. When you interact with soldiers and their families, you clearly see what it means to make sacrifices and what it means to have unwavering strength.

As West Virginians and Americans, we can never do enough to repay the debt owed to our soldiers and our veterans. On Sept. 21, I asked my fellow West Virginians to join me to observe POW/MIA Recognition Day.

The proclamation that I signed declaring this important day commended the nation's commitment to account -- as fully as possible -- for Americans still missing from our nation's wars. In addition, the proclamation called on Congress to ensure that POW/MIA related offices and organizations receive the assets and resources necessary to accomplish the principled mission to account for unreturned veterans, and to signal nations around the world that America stands behind those who serve.

We cannot forget those who are still missing. We have a responsibility to those who have served us proudly on the battlefield throughout the years and a obligation to honor the following 19 West Virginians who are still missing and unaccounted for in Southeast Asia: John Scott Albright, Huntington; Edward Milton Parsley, Naugatuck; Albert Harold Altizer, Squire; Marshall J. Pauley, Milton; Joseph Clair Austin, Moundsville; Ronald Keith Pennington, Huntington; Jerry Edward Auxier, Dixie; Joe Harold Pringle, Horner; Keith Royal Wilson Curry, Salem; James Ray Sargent, Anawalt; James Edward Duncan, Point Pleasant; Hughie Franklin Snider, New Cumberland; Robert W. Hunt, Beckley; Dean Calvin Spencer III, Morgantown; Carroll B. Lilly, Morgantown; George W. Thompson, Beckley; Danny G. Marshall, Waverly; David Wallace Wickham II, Wheeling; and, Michael Robert Norton, Eskdale.

West Virginia has always answered our nation's call to duty and for this we should all be extremely grateful to members of our armed forces. I encourage all West Virginians to make a sincere effort to thank our soldiers, veterans and their families each day for their great sacrifice and unparalleled service.

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