By Staff Sgt. Robert Cloys
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
A weeklong observance honoring prisoners of war and those missing in action began at Schriever Air Force Base Monday with guest speaker, retired Army Master Sgt. Edwin Beck, a World War II prisoner of war.
For Beck, POW/MIA week is a time to honor those he had served by telling his story and hoping to inspire those returning home from deployments now and in the future.
“If you don’t go out and talk and tell your story, others will never know how it was,” said Beck. “I do it for my fellow comrades who never made it back.”
In 1944, during what is now known as the Battle of the Bulge, Beck was a young Browning Automatic rifle gunner from the 106th Infantry Division, 422nd Regiment. One night, the group found themselves surrounded by German soldiers not far from the city of Prum, Germany. After a short small arms battle, the division was forced to surrender and was taken prisoner.
Beck and 19 other Americans were sent to a prison camp near Oschatz, Germany, a trip that took nearly five days both on foot and by train.
After spending nearly six months as a prisoner of war, Beck eventually escaped the camp and found his way back to U.S. control. He then made his way home and served in the Korean War several years later.
His story serves another purpose as well, to show others who have deployed and found themselves with memories they wished they could forget that life must continue.
“When I first got home, I would lay down and wake up afraid to move, still thinking I was in a prison camp,” said Beck.
Beck also remembered his service during the Korean War, his voice beginning to shake as he spoke.
“I remember making my way to a rice paddy in Korea. It was cold, my feet were soaked and I could see them,” he said. “They were tagging my comrades. They would take one shoe off and put a tag on their toe and then put one dog tag in their mouth and send them back before throwing them in a truck next to the other frozen bodies — that’s the stuff you don’t forget.”
Beck said he understood why some military members coming back from a deployment overseas could feel lost and even suicidal. But, as someone who could relate Beck, had a message.
“Have faith. You are an American Soldier. You serve to keep this country and the world free of tyranny,” he said. “Stay sturdy and straight. Keep moving forward. There are bad days and good days. You’ve got to get over them. Sometimes it’s hard, but you’ve got to keep going. You can’t give up.”
After Beck finished speaking, Col. Bill Liquori, 50th Space Wing commander, thanked him for sharing his story.
“Your sacrifice, your dedication and your patriotism are a lesson to each and every one of us,” said Liquori. “We will carry it with us.”
More than 83,000 Americans are still missing from World War II, the Korean War, the Cold war, the Vietnam War and the Gulf War according to the Defense Prisoners of War and Missing Persons office.