Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System
Central Arkansas VA honors former prisoners of war, remembers those still missing
Veterans, families and members of the community gathered to honor former prisoners of war (POW) and those service members still missing in action (MIA) Sept. 28 at the Eugene Towbin Healthcare Center in North Little Rock.
"We are here to Honor those who have served as POWs and honor those who remain unaccounted for," said Michael Winn, medical center director. "They suffered greatly for their country and we will never be able to fully repay them. We will always remember and honor their sacrifice."
The annual event is led by the Little Rock VA Regional Office and the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System in observance of National POW/MIA day. This year's event included a special Silver Star presentation by U.S. Senator Blanche Lincoln (D-Ark.) for Sergeant Harold George Bennett, a Vietnam Veteran and native of Perryville, Ark.
Sergeant Bennett was the first POW executed in the Vietnam War and his remains were never recovered. He is credited for saving the lives of rescue teams by calling them off as they attempted to rescue him during a firefight in Vietnam. As a prisoner of war, Sergeant Bennett attempted escape three times before he was executed. Sergeant Bennett's brother, sister and brother in law accepted the Silver Star medal on his behalf.
The ceremony also featured remarks from Martha Cothren, daughter of former POW Archie Cothren, and a presentation of gifts to the several POWs in attendance. Members of the Patriot Guard Riders and the Rolling Thunder motorcycle groups stood flag line to honor POWs and those still listed as MIA.
Since World War I, more than 142,000 Americans, including 85 women, have been captured and interned as POWs. Additionally, nearly 93,000 Americans who were lost have never been recovered. As of 2008, fewer than 23,000 former POWs were still living, 90 percent of whom were captured and interned during World War II.