POWs recognized at ceremony in Priceville

Sep. 18—PRICEVILLE — Around 100 people were present at a ceremony at Priceville's Veteran's Park on Friday, where veterans, their families and the JROTC programs from Morgan County Schools Technology Park and Decatur High School honored prisoner of war veterans and those missing in action.

POW/MIA Recognition Day is commemorated on the third Friday of every September, a date that's not associated with any particular war. In 1979, Congress and the president passed resolutions making it official after the families of the more than 2,500 Vietnam War POW/MIAs pushed for full accountability.

The event was hosted by the American Legion Post 15 in Decatur, and Post Commander and retired U.S. Army Capt. Joseph Woodbury delivered the opening remarks.

"The Department of Defense estimates there's about 81,600 servicemen and women that left home to defend democracy on foreign shores and never made it back home to their loved ones," Woodbury said. "There's no closure for their families, and these servicemen and women don't get the recognition they deserve."

John Johnson, Morgan County's Disabled American Veterans commander and Combined Patriotic Organization chaplain, said a prayer for those in attendance and afterward, Woodbury announced the guest speaker, Lt. Col. Michael Snyder, who served 28 years in the U.S. Army.

Snyder, Decatur High's senior JROTC commander and an Iraq War veteran, dedicated his speech and the ceremony to Decatur native Sgt. George Mills, who was a decorated World War II veteran and POW. Mills died in April.

Snyder smiled at the crowd and said, "I know Mr. Mills and his fellow soldiers are looking down on us right now."

Snyder recounted how Mills always held POWs and those missing in action dear to his heart and always told others of their sacrifices.

"While George Mills was being held in captivity in Stalag VIII-A in Poland, a fellow POW had died there," Snyder said. "Mills asked the German guards for permission to bury him, which he was granted. He and other POWs spent all night digging a grave in frozen ground."

Snyder said a German prison guard was so impressed he played taps on his trumpet for the soldiers.

"He must have known some English because he played that for them as they were shoveling dirt over the body," Snyder said.

Snyder had a wreath assembled that was given to Mills' family members who were present at the ceremony.

The JROTC cadets then presented five berets, all representing the branches of the military, and placed them on five empty chairs underneath a canopy as several veterans and their families looked on.

wesley.tomlinson@decaturdaily.com or 256-340-2438.