Leonard Kirk, a German prisoner of war for more than seven months during World War II, knows all too well that freedom isn't free.
"Many of us have sacrificed. Some of us came home without limbs and some of us returned with the horrors of war etched in our minds forever," Kirk said Friday at a flag-raising ceremony outside the Carroll County Government offices to commemorate national POW/MIA recognition day.
More than 60 people, including a number of veterans, attended.
Kirk, an Eldersburg resident, recounted his time as a prisoner of war during World War II in which he stayed at three different POW camps and at times was stoned and spit upon.
Col. Edward Rothstein, the former Garrison Commander at Fort Meade, who has been deployed to Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan, said Friday was a day to remember and honor those who have suffered the greatest loss.
"America owes these brave men and women our eternal gratitude," he said.
There are four Carroll County residents who went missing during their service in the military.
Cpl. Charles Garver, who served in the Korean War, became missing while his unit was attacking through enemy roadblocks in the vicinity of Hoengsong Feb. 12, 1951. U.S. Army Graves Registration units operating in the area in 1953 were unable to locate any sign of him and investigations of the battle area between 2006 and 2008 by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command did not lead to any identification of Garver.
Airman First Class Charles Billingslea, who served in the Korean War as a gunner of a B-26 intruder, went missing during a mission targeting enemy supply routes over northern Korea. After the pilot of Billingslea's plane checked in with radio command the night of the mission, the crew was reported overdue in the morning and the plane's whereabouts were never discovered.
Cpl. Louis Damewood was captured near the town of Hoengsong, South Korea, during fierce fighting Feb. 12, 1951. In a prisoner camp along the Yalu River, it was reported that Damewood had died, but his remains are unaccounted for.
Lt. Col. Sherman Flanagan, a member of the District of Columbia Air National Guard, was piloting a bomber aircraft in Vietnam on July 26, 1968, during a mission to attack an anti-aircraft gun position. After three passes on the target, Flanagan's flight leader reported seeing his aircraft crash about seven kilometers east of the target. There were no radio transmissions or parachutes deployed and rescue efforts were not initiated because of significant enemy presence.
Field investigations conducted by the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command from 1995 to 2009 found Flanagan's crash site, but identifiable remains were not recovered from the site.