In the next few weeks, every road entering Franklin County will be marked with a sign signifying its designation as the first POW/MIA county in the nation.
Presiding Commissioner Tim Brinker said after the official designation in November, the county ordered 25 signs, 24-inch by 30-inch, at a cost of $75 each. The POW/MIA signs will be installed by Missouri Department of Transportation.
“It’s very gratifying and refreshing to know that our veterans, POW, MIAs and their families have not been forgotten in this country and, especially, in this county,” Brinker said. “The POW/MIA designation, truly is a more encompassing recognition of our veterans, and I want to make sure that continues here.”
The process of gaining the POW/MIA designation began last May when Brinker was asked to seek it by the Washington chapter of the Korean War Veterans Association.
Brinker said an official sign unveiling will be held at some point in the county within a few weeks after the signs are installed.
Just two days after Veterans Day last November, during a POW/MIA Museum board meeting, held at Jefferson Barracks, Franklin County became the first county in the nation to be approved for the designation.
Paul Dillon, president of the Jefferson Barracks POW-MIA Museum project in St. Louis, said this has been a rewarding process.
“It’s great to let families know their service members haven’t been forgotten,” Dillon said. “We are going to make this project happen.”
Dillon added he hopes the POW/MIA county and city program will raise more awareness to the cause and maybe serve as a fundraising apparatus to get the museum renovated.
“We are absolutely thrilled and overwhelmed by the support we have received from Franklin County,” Dillon said. “Eventually, we’d love to see this program spread across the state and the entire country.”
The POW/MIA city and county project is an extension of the POW-MIA Museum based at Jefferson Barracks in South St. Louis County, which is currently raising funds to continue renovations.
In March, Dillon told The Missourian the mission of the Jefferson Barracks POW-MIA Museum is to reverently honor all who served our country in any branch of the United States military, who were captured by enemies of the United States, or who are missing in action, from any year and from any conflict.
This mission includes raising the awareness of the American public to the numbers of captured Americans who returned alive, to the numbers of those who perished in captivity, and to the numbers of those service personnel missing who have not yet been returned for the homage they deserve.
The Jefferson Barracks POW-MIA Museum is the only one of its kind in the country because it focuses on telling the stories of both POWs and MIAs.
Currently, there are about 10 individual cities which have the POW/MIA designation.
Fenton was the first city receiving the designation in December of 2016, followed shortly thereafter by St. Ann, Bellefontaine Neighbors, Caledonia, and Jefferson City received the designation in the fall of 2017.
This year the cities of St. Ann, Farmington, Arnold, Bismarck, Rolla, Sunset Hills and Fredericktown were designated.
“This program is really taking off faster than we expected,” Dillon said. “We are thrilled and a little scared all at the same time. At times it seems to be overshadowing the museum renovations.”
Mayor Sandy Lucy also was requested to make Washington a POW/MIA city.
Dillon’s father was a POW in World War II. He was shot down over Germany in October 1943, captured by German civilians and eventually turned over to the Nazis and was a POW for 20 months in Stalag 17B.
Dillon joined the Stalag 17B group as a next of kin member.
The chapter has since folded, because some of the POW-MIA members, including the late Dutch Borcherding of Washington, have passed away.
Dutch was a POW in Germany for 16 months. After the war, he was sports editor for The Missourian.