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September 15, 2012

VAMC ceremony honors POW/MIAs

Five former POWs recognized

To cheers and applause, five men captured and held as prisoners of war during World War II stood and soaked it all in.

“It felt mighty good,” Clifford Hall, 92, of Eufaula, said. “Oh yeah. It was very nice to hear and see.”

Hall was one of the POWs recognized as the Jack C. Montgomery VA Medical Center held a POW/MIA recognition ceremony Friday.

Hall said he spent two years in Austria as a POW after being shot down Aug. 17, 1943.

“I was an Air Force gunner on a B-17,” Hall said. “We were hitting a ball bearing plant when I was shot down.”

Standing next to Hall was Frank Mays, a 90-year POW.

Mays was also held prisoner during World War II. Mays was a German soldier held at Camp Gruber in Braggs.

Those two men and three others listened as Muskogee Mayor Bob Coburn named Sept. 14, 2012 as POW/MIA Remembrance Day in Muskogee.

“It’s great to be able to have guys like this here in Muskogee, and to honor them,” Coburn said. “The VA hospital, you know, it sits up here on this hill, out of the way, and goes about its business, and it doesn’t get the respect it deserves from Muskogee for having things like this.”

Retired Army Major Ed Pulido spoke to the crowd inside the medical center’s auditorium. Pulido was injured Aug. 17, 2004, when an improvised explosive device went off near his platoon.

The explosion destroyed his knee, and stuck shrapnel in his life-saving protective vest. Pulido said as he was on the 120-degree sand — staring at the mangled remains of his leg and the shrapnel stuck in his vest — he was comforted by a thought.

“I knew I would not be left behind by the men and women with me,” Pulido said.

Pulido eventually lost the leg, and after a month and a half of rest and surgeries, Pulido said he weighed 118 pounds — down from 195 pounds before the attack.

Another officer talked to Pulido after the surgeries and gave him a pep talk Pulido said has stayed with him ever since.

“He said, ‘son, you didn’t lose your leg, you sacrificed it for your country,’” Pulido said.

The ceremony closed when two medical center volunteers held a POW/MIA chair ceremony. Placing symbolic items on a table for one, flanked by an empty chair, Nancy Ellis helped pay homage to the nation’s prisoners of war and those missing in action.

Reach Dylan Goforth at (918) 684-2903 or dgoforth@muskogeephoenix.com.

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