There are currently 82,143 men and women listed as Missing in Action from U.S. conflicts throughout the years, and Franklin County is the only county in the nation to honor them in a unique way.
On Tuesday, by official proclamation by board members of the St. Louis POW/MIA museum, Franklin County is officially the first POW/MIA county in the nation.
In fact, Franklin County’s role in the process has opened the door for the program to spread state and nationwide.
Museum President Paul Dillion was joined at the county commission meeting by board members Mike Brown and Noel Freesh to present the county with its official designation and to show their gratitude for the support of the group’s endeavors.
“Our mission is to honor all who have served in any branch and were captured by enemies of the United States,” Dillion explained. “Also anyone missing from any conflict of any year.”
Early in the process, some issues arose with the veterans group receiving certification from the U.S. Department of State.
The request was initially declined due to a problem with the specificity of the request, but with the help of Gov. Mike Parson’s office, the designation was approved for the county.
“Without the help of Franklin County, this program wouldn’t be happening,” Dillion said. “I don’t know what they said to the Secretary of State’s office, but in a matter of days, we got our service mark.”
Several cities have received the “service mark,” but U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s approval marks Franklin County as the first in the country to be designated as a POW/MIA county.
Presiding Commissioner Tim Brinker said the county is honored to receive the first ever designation and happy to help the POW/MIA group.
“I was totally unaware of this program until it was brought to my attention by the Washington Korean War Veterans group,” Brinker said “We decided to wholeheartedly pursue the designation.”
Brinker explained the county submitted its official request by letter and the process began.
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.
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.
The official POW/MIA flag will also be flown at the county courthouse in honor of the designation.
Currently, there are 11 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.
In 2018, 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,” Dillion said. “We are thrilled and a little scared all at the same time. At times it seems to be overshadowing the museum renovations.”
Washington Mayor Sandy Lucy also was requested to make Washington a POW/MIA city.
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.
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.
Dillion explained the 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.