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Always remember
Harley Coon, national director of the American Ex-Prisoner of War, was keynote speaker at Wright Patterson Air Force Base for the recognition of Prisoner of War-Missing in Action Day Sept. 21. (Skywrighter photo by Charles Caperton/U.S. Air Force)
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Remembrance held for POW/MIAs at Wright-Patterson

Posted 9/28/2007   Updated 9/28/2007 Email story   Print story


by Mike Wallace
Skywrighter Staff

9/28/2007 - WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- Base senior noncommissioned officers held a special Prisoner-Of-War/Missing-In-Action Recognition ceremony Sept. 21 at the historic Arnold House here. 

Special guest and speaker, Harley Coon, a former POW during the Korean War attended along with Col. Colleen M. Ryan. The purpose of the ceremony was to thank, honor and remember POW/MIAs.

At the ceremony, Ryan said, "The POW/MIA Recognition Day was instituted to help Americans remember. Their sacrifices should rightfully hold a place in our hearts."
Ceremony emcee, Chief Master Sgt. Diane Foote, Air Force Materiel Command headquarters, introduced Harley Coon.
She said that he "is one of the few who can talk about the high price of freedom.

Coon was taken prisoner in 1950, and remained a POW for "33 months and four days." He told the story of his capture and prisoner-of-war experience.

"Stationed on Hill 224, about 220 of us were holding the hill. The Chinese attacked us at 8 a.m., and at the end of the battle, only 17 of us remained. I was one of six that survived the war," said Coon. "It was cold. Temperatures ranged from zero to minus four, and we were reduced to the lowest form of human being. We were under attack by the enemy and our own forces."

According to Coon there was also very little food.

"We ate chicken feed and rice. It was a strict weight loss diet. I got down to about 115 pounds. All of us developed intestinal worms and lice. I had yellow jaundice, beriberi. As many as 50 to 100 POWs died each day, and I was part of 52 burial details. I woke up one morning and men on both sides of me had died during the night. We made sure all the dead got some kind of burial service," said Coon.

"A lady called me, and said that she was four at the time her father, Harold Brassfield, died. She asked me about him, and I said, 'I can tell you he died a hero.'"

Coon added, "The POW simulation schools are good, but one thing you can't simulate is how worried your family is when you are a prisoner. I was more concerned about my family than what I had to do for the Chinese. I used faith to live through the ordeal. While there, my sister passed away, and my mother passed away shortly after I returned.

There are so many stories I could tell, but there are too many unfortunate memories."
The POW/MIA Recognition ceremony concluded with the placing of a commemorative wreath at the memorial near the back of the Arnold House.

A formal retreat ceremony followed with the Air Force Band of Flight playing the National Anthem.

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