NACOGDOCHES COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - Sept. 16 always brings special meaning to Marine veteran Michael Bishop. Bishop is a Vietnam War veteran, and many of his friends did not make it home.
After the Paris Peace Accords, the U.S. listed 1,350 Americans that were classified as either prisoners of war or missing in Action.
Since then, over 500 Texas service members have been reported as MIA in various conflicts.
"I moved up here from Houston 30 years ago, and there was no ceremonies to commemorate these people from combat," Bishop said. "Their remains have not been returned, and it went unnoticed in the community. So I made a commitment with another veteran that we would have a ceremony for POW-MIA day."
So Bishop and others began the annual tradition as Nacogdoches joined cities around America in remembering the missing in action and prisoners of war.
They remember the POWs by setting the empty table with one chair and a cup upside down with a rose, a yellow ribbon, and a hat from each service branch.
"Several of my friends who were held as POWs, some of who returned and others are still missing, said Gaylon Fletcher, a retired Navy officer. "Many of our air crews and ground troops who served in Vietnam are still missing."
It was a simple ceremony to remind us of the men and women that gave all.
"I pray we would all rise up and honor them and thank them for their selfless acts," said Rabbi Tim Stewart.
"It's important to me because I've served in the military for 36 years, and I've had friends who had been missing in action," Retired Veteran, Maj General Michael H. Taylor said.
"If you're going to maintain a strong country, you can never forget those who've given their lives, and paid the ultimate price to protect you," U.S. Congressman Louie Gohmert said.
Bishop said he is hopeful one day these ceremonies are not needed.
"I can't wait for that day when Captain John Clark Hearst from Lufkin has his remains returned. That will be great," Bishop said. "Texas has lost several in the program. We have several hundred still missing."
Today everyone took a moment of silence for those who never made it back home.
One message that was clear, was to respect not only the missing servicemen and women, but their loved ones as well.
"Their families are put through the ringer," Gohmert said.
"The toughest part about this is what's on the families," Taylor said. "The families are the main ones we need to remember at this time, and what they've had to endure."