by Tech. Sgt. Ray Bowden
21st Space Wing Public Affairs
The men and women of the 21st Space Wing concluded their week long tribute to servicemembers who have been declared prisoners of war or missing in action with a POW/MIA Recognition Day Ceremony Sept. 18 at the base chapel.
Peterson’s observance marked the last of six days during the National POW/MIA week, a period during which Congress has mandated the flying of the National League of Families’ POW/MIA flag.
The ceremony began with the posting of this flag and featured Col. (ret) Gordon Scott, an Army Air Corps aviator who spent 50 days as a POW in Japan, and closed with remarks from Col. Stephen Whiting, 21st SW commander.
“It is especially fitting that on the Air Force’s 62nd birthday, we remember and honor the sacrifice of prisoners of war and those missing in action,” Colonel Whiting said. “Our service’s historic commitment to space capabilities like global positioning will decrease the probability of our Airmen being taken prisoner,” he said.
Colonel Scott spent his internment in a small bamboo cage with his seven-man crew. He and his men were routinely beaten but stayed true to the Code of Conduct.
“We were interrogated two-to-three times a week,” he said. “We got beat on the back of the head if we didn’t answer properly, but we just gave them our name, rank and the type of aircraft we flew,” he said.
A variety of Peterson Airmen turned out to support the POW/MIA event.
“My grandfather was a POW, my father was a Marine in Vietnam, and I have two brothers in the Army,” said Airman 1st Class Delilah Alvarado, 21st Dental Squadron. “I’m here to honor the past and the sacrifice of our POWs. There’s never going to be enough ways to say ‘thank you.’”
Colonel Whiting presented Colonel Scott with a painting of a P-51, the same aircraft Colonel Scott flew while stationed on the Island of Okinawa.
“Their efforts transformed Japan,” he said, praising the service of Colonel Scott and other World War II-era Airmen serving in Japan. “Japan is now among our strongest of allies and one of the world’s leading democracies,” he said.
The event also featured an invocation from Chaplain (Capt.) Ron Feeser, and a reading of the “Loneliest Prayer” and ‘America’s “Answer to the loneliest Prayer,” and a demonstration to honor former POWs and MIAs by a fire team of American and Royal Canadian Airmen and U.S. Army personnel.
“Our POWs and MIAs gave so much to their country and stayed true to what it means to be an American,” said Chaplain (Maj.) Mark Ingles, 21st SW Chapel. “It encourages me to know that we are paying tribute to their service.”
Colonel Scott continues to serve the Air Force as a docent at the Peterson Air and Space Museum here.