Saugus salutes POWs and MIAs

Junior ROTC Cadets gather around the symbolic table while Steve Castinetti narrates the story of POW remembrance. (Ben Pierce)

SAUGUSThe rain held off on Friday evening as residents gathered at Veterans Park for the Saugus Veterans Council’s Prisoners of War/Missing in Action (POW/MIA) remembrance ceremony. Since 1998, Saugus has organized this event annually. It is held on the third Friday of September in concordance with national POW/MIA Recognition Day.

Well-known Saugus resident Steve Castinetti served as the master of ceremonies. Castinetti served more than 40 years in the U.S. Navy before retiring as a captain in 2008. He explained that this day means a lot to him, not only as a military veteran, but also because of a personal relationship he had with someone who was once a prisoner of war.

“A friend of mine was on the USS Pueblo when it was attacked and captured by the North Koreans back in the 1960s,” Castinetti said. “We’ve had prisoners of war forever, and they tend to be forgotten because they’re out of sight, out of mind. So we try to keep this alive every year.”

The ceremony began promptly at 6 p.m. with the National Anthem. Everyone’s right hand was either placed over the heart or saluting not only the American Flag, but the National League of Families POW/MIA flag as well. Cadets from the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps of Peabody, Salem and Beverly placed flags behind Castinetti, each representing a different branch of the military.

“Let us remember the men and women, prisoners of war, from all branches of service that are too often forgotten,” Castinetti said.

A fully-set dinner table was the centerpiece symbol of the event. Each item represented a component of the emotions of those who have a loved one missing in action.

“A single rose reminds of the loved ones and families of our comrades in arms who keep the faith and wait for their return,” Castinetti read. “Salt on the plate is symbolic of the family’s tears as they await and remember… the glasses are inverted, we cannot toast with them tonight… the faded picture on the table is a reminder that they are missed very much and are remembered by their families. We remember.”

The ceremony concluded with a closing prayer by Army veteran Geoff Trainor.

Select Board member Corinne Riley was in attendance and noted the emphasis she and the town as a whole puts on this yearly event.

“It’s important because we should never forget how we’re free,” Riley said. “Saugus has always been supportive of its veterans past and present, and I’m very honored to be a part of it.”

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