Local POWs honored during at VA hospital for National POW MIA Recognition Day ceremony

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The mood was somber and solemn, as heads were bowed during a long moment of silence for our nation’s service members who are prisoners of war and for those who are still missing in action.

The VA Western New York Health Care System hosted a ceremony Thursday in honor of National POW MIA Recognition Day.

The holiday takes place on Friday. Every year the local VA hosts a ceremony to honor both the POWs who have passed and those who are still with us.

Captain Sydney Cole, was one of many who were honored. Cole was captured by the German Army during WWII.

“The worst most miserable thing I’ve ever saw,” he said. “A prisoner of war, more than that it was unbelievable with the Germans. Unbelievable. I was captured and at my release, I weighed 80 pounds. When I moved I could hear the clicking of my bones in my body. I was so thin.”

Cole is 105 years old — And, as for his secret to staying so young.

“You know the thing is, if i tell my secret, then I won’t have a secret,” he said.

“I think as the years pass and the decades pass, it’s easy for people to not have in mind the sacrifices that these veterans make,” said Jeanne Heiln, advocate for former POWs VA Western New York Healthcare System. “They suffer incomprehensible deprivations, torture, really there’s no words for it. And, so at this time every year we get to recognize former POWs as well as remembering those missing in action.”

At last check, there are 81,000 service members from past US conflicts who are missing in action and more than 41,000 thousand of them, are thought to be lost at sea.  That’s according to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency, which is in charge of recovery operations.

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