Seymour Johnson Air Force Base airmen took time out of their day — and some, out of their night — to carry the POW/MIA flag up and down Center Street between Ash and Elm streets for 24 hours.
The third annual POW/MIA 24-hour vigil was sponsored by Chapter 371 of the Air Force Sergeants Association. It began at 3 p.m. Sept. 16 and ended at 3 p.m. Sept. 17.
While some volunteers carried the flag, others read the names of POWs/MIAs throughout the day and night.
With a police escort, a six-member team carried the flag to Wayne Community College at 2 p.m. Sept. 17 for a short closing ceremony. The ceremony ended with taps.
Tech. Sgt. Christine Intorre, a member of Chapter 371 of the AFSA, coordinated both the Freedom Tree rededication Sept. 16 and the 24-hour vigil, with about 60 volunteers.
“I had the opportunity and wanted to take on the task for the event,” she said. “It’s important to honor these people who have lost their lives. It’s an honor more than a responsibility.”
Intorre said it was an “incredible feeling knowing that we’re so supported and have people looking out for us regardless of whether we’re here or we need to be found. It’s important to know that we have that support and that our community here in Goldsboro does that for us.”
She wants the community to remember that there are still 81,000 military members missing from several conflicts.
“We don’t have the freedoms we have without the military,” Intorre said.
One of those carrying the POW/MIA flag was Staff Sgt. Warren A. Ellis, who said he did it out of respect to those who gave their lives.
“They paved the way for us and our military, so we’re paying it back to them,” he said. “It gives me chills carrying the flag. You think about everybody and their past. It puts meaning behind what I do in the future.”
Ellis said when he heard the names being read, it gave him a lot to reflect on, especially since he has past family members who were in the military.
“I want people to know that freedom’s not always free,” he said. “There’s plenty of people who have lost their lives to protect us and our nation. It definitely makes me proud to be military.”
Senior Airman Melvin Green also carried the POW/MIA flag.
“I feel like it was the right thing to do to always give back to the community and also pay tribute to an important cause,” he said. “Me personally, I wanted to be out here.
“It feels amazing to carry the flag. But it also made me feel aware of what’s truly going on with our community and our country as well, both here and overseas.”
Helping read POW/MIA names for almost five hours was Goldsboro city worker Blake Elliott.
“It feels almost extreme to the heart because while I’m reading it, between each name, I’m also reading where they’re from and where they were missing in action on that paper,” he said. “I can actually get a visual of that person. It’s kind of like I get to know the person a little bit.
“It’s something to think about, I tell you that much. I have a lot of respect for these men and their families.”
Although Elliott is not military, he has military in his family — and has lost some of them.
Elliott said any time he can volunteer for something, he’s there.
“As long as we can do something positive and I can be a part of it, I’m going to be there,” he said. “If I’ve got two legs, I’m going to make it to volunteer. And if I don’t, I might crawl to do it.”