By Mr. Thomas Peske (AMC)September 30, 2008
CRANE, Ind. - Crane Army Ammunition Activity joined with Naval Support Activity Crane, and Crane Division, Naval Surface Warfare Center, in hosting the annual Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Recognition Day Ceremony here Sept. 18.
During the ceremony, held at the site of Crane's POW Tree and Monument, the Army and Navy took time to honor more than 25 former POWs and families of deceased former POWs.
Norman Thomas, CAAA chief of staff, told the crowd that the importance of POW-MIA Recognition Day can never be overstated. He highlighted the need to honor the promise that the United States will never forget them.
Thomas said, "Let us make a personal commitment to keep in mind our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines who have sacrificed for our country, and to shake the hands of those who are still with us today. And let us vow to continue that commitment for all of our Service members yet to come. In this way, we will take the spirit of POW-MIA Recognition Day beyond the boundaries of just one day on the calendar."
Capt. Charles LaSota, Crane Division, NSWC Crane commander, said that the former POWs are a reminder of the importance of the things that many people might take for granted, including the love and devotion of our families, the spirit and compassion of good friends and comrades-in-arm.
Former POW and Korean War veteran Robert Fletcher served as the ceremony's guest speaker. Fletcher entered military service in May 1950 at the age of 17. He was captured Nov. 27, 1950 and held as a prisoner of war by the North Koreans/Chinese Communists until repatriated on Aug. 7, 1953. During his speech, he told the audience members of the harsh conditions he endured while in Korea.
"A lot of people starved or died of typhoid by drinking filthy water," he said. Fletcher explained how he went from 180 pounds to 90 pounds during captivity and that he endured sub-zero temperatures, disease and lice.
Employees, veterans and service members also took part in the ceremony. CAAA employees and veterans Steve Kirby and James Brown laid a wreath at the POW Monument. NSWC Crane employees and veterans Shawn Anderson and Joe Borrelli placed a yellow ribbon on the POW Tree. During the ceremony, a new POW/MIA flag was raised and an empty chair draped in black representing those prisoners who died was posted on the speaker's platform. A seven man firing party from a local American Legion post fired three volleys and Taps played to honor those who are missing and who died in action. The Bloomfield High School choir group, Center Stage, performed during the ceremony.
Each of the former POWs was presented with a clock in appreciation of their sacrifices to the country. Following the ceremony, Crane honored the guests at a luncheon where many of the veterans provided testimonials of their experiences as POWs.
CAAA was established in Oct. 1977 and is a tenant of the Navy Region Midwest, Naval Support Activity Crane. The Army activity maintains ordnance professionals and infrastructure to receive, store, ship, produce, renovate and demilitarize conventional ammunition, missiles and related components.