The former POW group poses for a photo outside of the Brooklyn VA.
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Sunshine streamed through the stained glass windows of the chapel at VA’s New York Harbor Healthcare System in Brooklyn last Friday morning. Inside, former Prisoners of War gathered among family, friends, fellow Veterans and VA staff for the annual POW/MIA Recognition Day, an opportunity for all to remember and thank the men and women who – in service to their country – have been captured or even missing in action.
The program, packed with locals who wanted an opportunity to recognize these Veterans, included words from the hospital’s Director, Martina Parauda, the NYPD, the FDNY, The US Army and others.
First, Ms. Parauda thanked the Ex-POW group for their steadfast support of VA. “Our former POWs are so supportive of everything we do at VA,” noted Ms. Parauda, whose own uncle was declared MIA and later dead during the Vietnam War. “Because of them, we have the freedoms we have in this country.”
As part of the ceremony, Harold Radish, Ex-POW, read the Missing Man, acknowledging all of the MIAs still unaccounted for today.
Susan Vujnovich, Ex-POW coordinator at NY Harbor’s Brooklyn Campus introduced the ex-POW group and asked them to share a few words about their experiences. “Each story is unique, but they have all endured and emerged with dignity, honor, character and hope.”
Some spoke softly and timidly into the microphone, some more robustly recounted their stories. The men in attendance – some in the Air Force, others in the Army, talked of their capture and their certainty that they would die by firing squad after refusing to give up any information. Many served in World War II, some in the Korean War. No matter how different their experiences, the outcome was the same – they came home.
Sgt. Sylvia McLaughlin, retired, delivered a moving keynote address to the men. “You are all heroes,” she told the men. “The H is because you heard the call of your nation and you answered that call…. The E for endurance. You endured. You are what military service means…. The R is for the fact that you returned with reference. … O – you obeyed the commands. You are the epitome of selfless service.”
She reminded the former POWs, many of whom are now in their nineties, that they leave behind a legacy. “You left behind the legacy of what it is to be a hero. We pledge to remember your service and the service of those still missing in action.”
Also in attendance were City Councilman Vincent Gentile and State Senator Marty Golden who each delivered a citation to the Brooklyn Key Chapter in recognition of the day.
After the ceremony, the POW flag was raised against the backdrop of a clear blue sky in front of the hospital.