A simple, yet powerful way to further galvanize the public and our leaders into action? An official flag.
With an Act of Congress, a new banner could be flown under the Stars and Stripes on government buildings, from post offices across the country to embassies around the world. The flag would serve as a national promise to the families of hostages and wrongfully detained Americans that the United States is doing everything it can to get them back. It would also spread awareness of the national emergency this problem has quickly become, hopefully creating more pressure on the government to act and deliver on that promise.
After a lengthy design process, the families of current and former hostages and the organizations that support them have helped create such a flag.
There are five main elements in the flag. First, the title of the flag, “Hostages and Wrongly Detained,” which complies with the recognized language of the Levinson Act. Second, the symbol of the counting of the days, which emphasizes the central attribute of their struggle: each day that passes is another day that the families of hostages lose their integrity. Third, three human profiles, which represent the individual struggle of the hostage and show the diversity of our nation. Fourth, the slogan “Bring Them Home”, which is a call to action. Fifth, the yellow and black colors of the flag, which obey the tradition of wearing yellow ribbons to remember our captives and the darkness of their cells, dungeons and caves.
There is a strong precedent for the hostage families’ effort. In 1970, a group of prisoner of war (POW) and missing in action (MIA) families fought to raise awareness of the suffering of their loved ones by creating the National League of POW/MIA Families flag, as the “symbol of our nation’s concern and a commitment to resolve as fully as possible the fate of Americans who are still imprisoned, missing, and missing. …”
The POW/MIA flag flies over the White House, Congress, and all manner of federal buildings. Seeing this flag reminds all Americans of these families’ ongoing struggle to bring their loved ones home and our gratitude for their sacrifice. The flag was also a powerful element in the push to bring home all American prisoners of war at the end of the Vietnam War.
Today, according to James W Foley Legacy Foundation, there are at least 67 Americans wrongfully held abroad. They are held captive due to the belief that US citizens can be traded for imprisoned comrades, ransomed to fund malign activities, or used to pressure US officials to change government policy. But whatever the reason, it means that 67 families have had their lives suspended. They are in English and pain as they contemplate the condition of their loved ones every day.
Washington has become somewhat more serious lately in dealing with this crisis. President Barack Obama established the Office of the Special Presidential Envoy for Hostage Affairs in 2015. President Donald Trump signed the Levinson Law into law in 2020. Just a few weeks ago, President Joe Biden issued a executive order intended to prevent the capture of more Americans. Bringing home our hostages and wrongfully detained is a nonpartisan national priority. But more can be done.
It would be convenient in the same legislation to declare a National Hostage Taking and Wrongful Detention Awareness Day.
Being held hostage because we’re Americans can happen to any of us, and unfortunately it’s happening all too often around the world. Like our beloved POWs and MIAs, hostages and those wrongfully detained deserve an official flag to remind the American people that their freedom is being stolen from them solely because they carry a blue passport emblazoned with our nation’s seal. Let’s show our commitment to our fellow citizens in such dire circumstances and make it clear that bringing our American captives home is a national priority.