June 12, 1981

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to what I think is a very important and worthwhile little signing ceremony here in the Rose Garden. I am pleased that I'm going to sign a joint resolution and a proclamation designating July 17th, 1981 National P.O.W.-M.I.A. Recognition Day.

The brave men and women who fought for our country should all know that America does remember and is grateful and will always be proud of their courage and honor on the battlefield. And it's fitting that we pay this special tribute to those who so heroically endured the hardships and torture of enemy captivity -- unusual in any war in our history, because it was the longest period that American fighting men have ever been held in captivity. Just the thought of the terrible pain that they suffered and endured should be seared in our memories forever. And let us remember, too, that 6 years after American involvement in Vietnam, in the war, we still don't have a full accounting of our missing servicemen from that conflict, an accounting that was guaranteed in the Paris peace accords that brought the fighting there to an end, an agreement which has been violated.

Recently there have been reports that Americans are still being held captive in Indochina. None of these reports, I'm sorry to say, has been verified, but the world should know that this administration continues to attach the highest priority to the problem of those missing in action. We intend to seek the fullest possible account from the governments involved.

I'm grateful that we have with us here today one of America's outstanding heroes from the Vietnam war, one of the former prisoners of war, and now the Senator from Alabama, Jeremiah Denton, accompanied by his lovely wife Jane. July 17th, it is just 16 years -- or that will be -- to the day that he was shot down over Southeast Asia. Now, lest someone think that there's a little confusion there, he was shot down on July 18th, 1965, but when it was the 18th there, on this side of the dateline it was the 17th. Jeremiah Denton. Who will ever forget on that first night in that first plane that arrived at Clark Field in the Philippines, and he was the first man we saw come down the ramp from the plane, salute our flag, ask God's blessing on America, and then thank us for bringing them home.

They're joined here by leaders of the House and Senate, many of their colleagues, Cap Hollenbeck and Bob Dornan, John LeBoutillier and Bill Hendon and John Paul Hammerschmidt and Tom Lantos from the House, and Senators Dennis DeConcini and Bob Dole, along with Senator Jeremiah Denton.

And now, I'm going to have the happy task of signing the proclamation and the bill.

Note: The President spoke at 3:02 p.m. at the signing ceremony in the Rose Garden at the White House.

As enacted, S.J. Res. 50 is Public Law 97 - 13, approved June 12.