Maxwell honors POWs, MIAs

by Becca Burylo
Air University Public Affairs

9/20/2013 - MAXWELL AIR FORCE BASE, Al  -- Those who have sacrificed for their country are nationally honored today, National POW/MIA Recognition Day. Federal, state and government buildings and national and military cemeteries across the nation wave the National League of POW/MIA Families' POW/MIA flag.

Earlier this week, a solitary wreath adorned Maxwell's Prisoner of War and Missing in Action monument Monday, saluting those who gave and continue to give sacrificially for the defense of their country.

Colonel Trent Edwards, 42nd Air Base Wing commander, spoke at the wreath-laying and maintains a great appreciation for those taken prisoner and many who are still missing in the line of duty.

He once flew to Vietnam on a Joint Task Force-Full Accounting mission to retrieve the bodies of former military service members.

"Our nation pauses today to reflect on the heroism, bravery of tens of thousands of Americans who endured the physical and mental hardship of enemy confinement and those whose fate in wars of past and present remains unaccounted for," said Edwards. "Never forget their sacrifices."

The ceremony, hosted by Edwards and the 42nd Air Base Wing, included the performance of taps and a gun salute by the Maxwell-Gunter Honor Guard.

Maxwell took a moment to pause and remember the hardships endured by such deceased military heroes as Air Force retired Lt. Col. Fred Frey, Master Sgt. James Traylor and Sgt. Joseph Gholston, whose spouses, Helen Frey, Helen Traylor and Helen Gholston were in attendance of the event.

Frey, Traylor and Gholston served on B-17 Flying Fortress bombers during World War II as co-pilot, turret gunner and crew chief, respectively. They, along with countless other POWs throughout the years, have been exposed to unimaginable torture by their prison guards, limited provisions, confined quarters and crude facilities.

Frey, flying the B-17 with the 96th Bomb Group, was shot down with his crew by German fighters. During the attack, an enemy shell exploded near his face, leaving him with first- and second-degree burns and shrapnel wounds.

After parachuting to the ground, Frey was captured and kept prisoner at Stalag Luft III until he was rescued two years later in 1945.

During his 11th mission, Traylor gunned down several enemy fighters before German forces grounded his team's aircraft, resulting in deaths of the pilot and copilot and the capture of Traylor and the rest of the crew.

Forced to march more than 170 miles to the Nazi prisoner of war camp, Traylor and the others were detained at Stalag 17-B for three years until their liberation in 1945. Traylor continued to serve in the Air Force until his retirement from Maxwell in Oct. 1969.

Lastly, Gholston would serve more than 60 of his total 348 days as a prisoner of war in solitary confinement after he and his team were shot down by the German army in 1944.

Transferred to several different POW camps in Brussels, Belgium and Frankfurt, Germany, Gholston was finally liberated in 1945.

According to the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office, more than 83,345 Americans are still missing from World War II, the Korean War, the Cold War, the Vietnam War, the 1991 Persian Gulf War and recent conflicts in the Middle East.

The DPMO's mission is to bring home those who are captured or killed while serving their country. The agency has been able to identify hundreds of American forces killed abroad and help return them to their families for burial with full military honors.
Chaplain (Capt.) Jarrod Sehr, who led the ceremony's invocation, prayed both for the return of those who remain prisoners of war and missing in action and for comfort for their families.

"We honor today a special group of people who will always belong to us and forever be remembered in our hearts," said Sehr. "Our POWs and MIAs are a symbol to all of us of the courage and forbearance that must be endured to keep our nation free."

A POW/MIA memorial 5K run is scheduled for 3 p.m. Thursday at the Gunter Fitness Center as another way to honor America's fallen heroes.