Meadville Tribune

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September 19, 2013

Annual 24-hour POW/MIA vigil starts tonight

MEADVILLE — Brotherhood and kinship between veterans and an outpouring of support from the Meadville community were the first things Sgt. Joshua Davis noticed at the POW-MIA Vigil this time last year.

Davis is expected to speak at today’s 24-hour vigil, marking the event’s 25th anniversary with his experience in coordinating the transportation of the remains of Korean War veteran and Conneaut Lake native Sgt. Chester Williams.

“I have a service connection to Korea during that part of the transfers,” he said. “It was a pretty dramatic realization when I came full circle.”

In the early 1990s, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea returned 208 sets of soldiers’ remains to the U.S., Davis said. One of the last sets contained Williams’ remains.

Davis performed ceremonial guard duties during an early period of those transfers.

He never expected to be assigned as a Casualty Assistance Officer for Williams’ next of kin approximately two decades later.

“You always form a bond with your (assigned) family, but we created a more tangible connection,” he said. “It’s all very humbling.”

This evening’s vigil may be humbling, too, he expects, with a reading and candle lighting in honor of all Pennsylvania military personnel still listed as missing in action from the Vietnam War.

Saturday marks the 15th anniversary of the Ride for Freedom from the Fairway 12 Motel in Conneaut Lake to the Crawford County Courthouse in Meadville.

Motorcycles and classic cars will head south on Route 618 onto Route 322 and travel through Conneaut Lake into Meadville with police escort. The route in Meadville, changed as a result of North Street construction, will take riders from Park Avenue onto Chestnut Street and into Diamond Park.

A ceremony with another speech by Davis will follow the arrival of all vehicles.

Whether attending for the vigil or the Ride for Freedom, the ultimate purpose of the event is “not to forget,” Davis said. “Closure for families, loved ones and (fellow) service members is still important. It certainly would be for me.”

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