People listen as Les Brown, commanding officer of the Elko POW*MIA Awareness Association, speaks Wednesday during the POW*MIA Awareness Day ceremony in front of the Elko County Courthouse. Ross Andreson/Elko Daily Free Press

ELKO - Just a few days away from the Fourth of July, Wednesday was a day to pause and remember members of the U.S. armed forces who are missing in action.

During POW*MIA Awareness Day, a ceremony was held at the Elko County Courthouse in which locals remembered one soldier in particular - U.S. Army Pfc. Bowe Robert Bergdahl, a native of Sun Valley, Idaho, who was taken hostage in Afghanistan one year ago.

Les Brown, commanding officer of the Elko POW*MIA Awareness Association, asked community members to send a prayer to Bergdahl's family and "take time to think about this young man."

"Inconvenience yourself for just a few moments every day," he said.

POW*MIA posters with Bergdahl's picture were planted in the courthouse lawn after the ceremony, as well as American flags.

Betsy Brian of the association said the ceremony was a time to remember those who are listed as missing in action.

"We renew our promise to find those missing in action and bring them home," she said.

Brian thanked the courageous families of those in the military and said Americans have an "eternal indebtedness for their sacrifices."

Before the ceremony, about 10 POW*MIA members rode their motorcycles down Idaho Street with flags on the back, and came to a stop on the road below the main entrance to the courthouse.

As the mid-morning sunlight hit the courthouse steps, red, white and blue pinwheels spun on the lawn in a light breeze.

More than 30 people, including POW*MIA members and several members of the armed forces, stood on the steps of the courthouse holding the signs with Bergdahl's picture.

The event began with a flag ceremony performed by members of the POW*MIA.

Brown said 88,000 members of the armed forces are missing in action.

"I ask you to take time out of your busy day to think about the 88,000 who are unaccounted for," he told event attendees.

Dorothy Minor, POW*MIA member, read a piece written by fellow POW*MIA member Cheyenne Leavitt.

"Can you really put yourselves in their shoes?" Leavitt wrote, adding that those in the armed forces are often so hungry and thirsty and receive only scraps to eat, but are thankful for it.

Oftentimes, Americans get angry about small things in their daily lives, such as not being able to find their keys or having a job they dislike, Leavitt wrote, and they don't stop to appreciate the freedom they have.

"It's a freedom to work. It's a freedom to dream," she wrote.

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The piece ended with Leavitt writing that people should enjoy every sunrise and sunset as an American and "thank the men and women who fight for us."

Leavitt said after the ceremony that she decided to write the piece after spending time with members of the Pocatello, Idaho, POW*MIA during the Elko Motorcycle Jamboree.

"One woman felt bad that we were celebrating when service people can't," she said.

Leavitt said she can't imagine what it must be like for those in the armed forces to not be able to feel the touch of a loved one for a year, or longer.

She said she's met Bergdahl's family and they're "amazing people."

"I'm inspired to never stop working until we have him home," she said about Bergdahl.

Leavitt's father, a former director of the Elko POW*MIA, is a Desert Storm veteran.

"After watching what my dad goes through every day, I decided to get involved (with POW*MIA)," she said.

During the ceremony, members of the POW*MIA also read letters and certificates from Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Assemblyman John Carpenter, R-Elko, in support of the statewide remembrance day.

County commissioners Charlie Myers and John Ellison read proclamations approved last week by the Elko County Commission and City Council designating Wednesday as POW*MIA Awareness Day.


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