COLCHESTER, Vt. – The Vermont National Guard and Vermont State Guard honored former prisoners of war and those missing in action, including three former World War II POWs and a former POW who was captured by North Korea in 1968.
Clyde Cassidy, William B. Busier, Richard H. Hamilton and Ralph McClintock were recognized Sept. 16 by Maj. Gen. Greg Knight, Vermont’s adjutant general, and an audience that included Vermont Guard Soldiers and Airmen and local veterans.
“I’m honored to welcome our former POWs. Your stories are important and should never be forgotten,” Knight said. “I am absolutely humbled to be here and to know your stories. It’s an honor to know you. Humility is a staple of your generation, but gentlemen, please know: You are our heroes, you’re Vermont’s heroes, and you’re American heroes.”
As part of the recognition ceremony, Knight presented each of the former POWs with coins emblazoned with the seal of the adjutant general and the words, “Put the Vermonters Ahead.” Before presenting the coins, Knight recalled the history of the phrase. On the eve of the Battle of Gettysburg, Union Gen. John Sedgwick was told his Soldiers would be needed the next morning on the battlefield.
“It was then that General Sedgwick issued the order, ‘Put the Vermonters ahead, and keep the column well closed up,’” Knight said. “General Sedgwick issued that order because Vermonters had a reputation for hard marching, and if you look at our history during the Civil War, we also had a reputation for not running from a fight.”
McClintock told guests what helped him keep faith with his fellow POWs: the cry, “Remember the Pueblo.” He and more than 80 others aboard the U.S.S. Pueblo were captured by North Korea in 1968 and held for 11 months. The ship is still in North Korean custody.
“‘Remember the Pueblo.’ That was our saying until we got home,” McClintock recalled. “When we got home to Naval Air Station San Diego ... everyone was there.” The Navy had paid for family members’ airfare, and the San Diego Chamber of Commerce raised money for hotel accommodations.
Busier, Cassidy and Hamilton were all held as POWs in the European theater during World War II. Busier was held for six months at Stalag Luft 9A. Cassidy was held at a working farm in the Baltics for 15 months and endured a 70-day forced march at the hands of the Nazis. Hamilton was held at Stalag Luft 4 in Poland for nine months.
“We stand on your shoulders, hoping to exemplify what you represent to us,” Knight said. “Thank you so much for your selfless service.”
The remembrance paid special honor to Pvt. Alevin Hathaway, a former MIA who was laid to rest with full military honors at Hinesburg Village Cemetery Sept. 3. His remains were transported to Vermont from Boston, where plane-side honors were conducted Aug. 26. Also honored was former POW Kenneth Brown Sr., who died in October at the age of 103.
The POW/MIA observance included a wreath-laying and a service led by Vermont State Guard chaplains. At the end of the event, Maj. Travis Myers, the master of ceremonies, led the guests in a rallying cry: “Remember the Pueblo.”