VA Maryland Health Care System
A Hero’s Recognition: Remembering Ex-POW’s
More than a dozen ex-prisoners of war (Ex-POWs) arrived at the Perry Point VA Medical Center on April 19 for an annual recognition luncheon in their honor. However, instead of the expected sit-down luncheon, speech and musical selections that the VA Maryland Health Care System had provided for the past nine years, this year, the Ex-POWs were treated to an afternoon full of tributes especially designed to express the gratitude of a humble nation. After being greeted by VA staff and presented with a boutonniere prepared by fellow Veteran patients at the Perry Point VA Greenhouse, each Ex-POW and his/her family members were escorted to their seats in the All Faiths Chapel where they were honored during an ecumenical service that included songs, prayers, speeches and a hero’s message from VA Chaplain Kenneth Block.
After the service, the group enjoyed a brunch, fellowship, live music and a special photo montage appropriately set to Johnny Cash’s "I Won’t Back Down" featuring highlights of past Ex-POW celebrations. In addition to a copy of the photo presentation and specially designed Ex-POW vases filled with fresh flowers, each Veteran and their family members left the event with the knowledge that their sacrifices have not gone unnoticed.
According to Leonard Kirk, Ex-POW, "I truly enjoyed the opportunity to lead the pledge of allegiance during this very special ecumenical service where the VA Maryland Health Care System paid tribute to me and my fellow Ex-POWs." He added, "It was great to talk with fellow Veterans and their family members, enjoy delicious food, and listen to piano music during the fellowship hour that followed the ecumenical service."
Of the 142,246 total Americans captured during conflicts throughout our history, there were just 32,550 known to be alive at the last count in 2004, and 90 percent of those are World War II Veterans. Events like this provide an opportunity to recognize the Ex-POW’s service and express our gratitude for defending these United States and helping maintain the freedoms that we all enjoy today.
Although the size of this group decreases every year, the opportunity to get together is very important to us because it gives us the chance, to once more, say thank you.