A yearly day of remembrance for Prisoners of War (POW) and those missing in action was marked for the first time by Western Technical College in La Crosse.
WTC held a POW-MIA (Missing in Action) recognition event Monday at the downtown site of a monument to people captured or missing from wars involving the US.
The black monument bearing the slogan “Freedom is not free” was dedicated at WTC two years ago, in honor of La Crosse businessman Don Weber, whose father was a POW late in World War II.
Weber spoke at the event, bringing a box of 167 letters that his father wrote to his mother during the war, before and after his capture.
Area veterans filled many of the seats for the midday outdoor ceremony along 7th Street, as Weber recalled the first letter his mother received after her husband became a prisoner.
“She gets this card, came from concentration camp,” Weber said. “It’s from my father, basically saying, I suppose by now you know where I’m at. I’m okay, don’t worry.”
Weber told how his father escaped and hid in a barn for three days before guards found him again and returned him to the prison camp.
Western Tech president Roger Stanford believes that the monument on campus is the only memorial in Wisconsin specifically dedicated to POWs and MIAs.
The third Friday of September is designated as National POW-MIA Recognition Day, with local ceremonies in the U.S. scheduled on or around that date. The annual observances began in the 1980s.
“The powerful monument on this beautiful campus reminds us of former POWs, individuals who endured captivity courageously and honorably during wars and conflicts undertaken by our nation to keep us free,” Karen Long, director of the Tomah VA Medical Center, who was among the speakers at the WTC ceremony, said.
More than 300 former POWs have been treated by Tomah VA Health Care System over the years.