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Bay Pines VA Healthcare System
Hundreds Gather for Bay Pines POW-MIA Remembrance Ceremony
October 4, 2016
BAY PINES, FL - An emotional and solemn crowd of about 300 gathered at the C.W. Bill Young VA Medical Center for the Bay Pines VA Healthcare System's POW/MIA Remembrance Ceremony on September 13.
Official POW/MIA insignia and flags were visible with every turn of the head as former prisoners of war, their loved ones, VA leaders and members of the community recognized the service and sacrifice of those held captive during wartime and those who never returned.
Keynote speaker for the hour-long ceremony was retired U.S. Navy pilot Bradley E. Smith. Smith was held captive during the Vietnam War nearly seven years after his A-4 Skyhawk was shot out of the sky by the North Vietnamese Army on March 25, 1966. He was released on February 12, 1973 as part of Operation Homecoming after being held captive 2,516 days. During his speech, he recounted the horrors of captivity but also spoke to perseverance and the overall will to survive.
Following the speech, Smith and Rolling Thunder, Chapter 11 members John Harrison and Larry Caldwell dedicated an FPOW/MIA Chair of Honor. The chair will be permanently placed in the medical center as a way to honor and recognize former prisoners of war, prisoners of war and the 91,000 service members still unaccounted for. Harrison also used the opportunity to present Smith with a POW/MIA bracelet. The iconic bracelets were created during the Vietnam War and worn by Americans across the country as a way to remember those held captive and missing in action.
Bay Pines VA leaders plan to make the POW/MIA Ceremony an annual event as a way to honor and remember the brave men and women that were kept from their families and those who have not yet returned.
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