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POW Cage

by Mike Blades


On September 27, 2003, my wife and I attended the annual POW/MIA ceremony at our local American Legion (Harold H. Bair, Post #14) in Hanover, Pennsylvania.  It was a poignant and solemn ceremony, as it always has been in the past, however there was something markedly different about this year's remembrance ceremony.

This year, the Legion Hall was void of almost anyone who did NOT have a part in either planning the ceremony or who participated in the ceremony.  I don't have exact numbers...but I dare to say that I could have counted them between both of my hands...and maybe a toe or two.  The warmth of those who cared enough to attend fought against the chill of forgetfulness the entire length of the ceremony.  Words spoken that day echoed louder than in the years past.  Those echoes cut deep and hurt more than anyone could ever imagine.

The ceremony is not new to the Veterans Organizations in the area and the effects of the lack of attendance could be seen in the eyes of almost everyone participating that day; and could be heard in the frustrated voices of the Master and Mistress of Ceremony...the Nehrs, as well as others.

Afterwards, my wife Stacy approached Bev and told her of her idea for entering a POW/MIA float in the Halloween Parade.  Later that evening we had some neighbors over to the house for a barbeque.   After the food was gone and the plates were cleared, Stacy told the neighbors (Sean & Becky Brown and Fred & Deb Raubenstein) of her idea.  Each agreed to offer whatever assistance they could and the rest of the evening was spent making plans.  I proposed that we enter a POW cage in the parade...it was unanimously approved!  I was fortunate enough to have met one man who I felt would, at the very least, help us get or build a cage...and when I contacted Rick...he readily agreed to help.  

The parade was on October 30th and we wound up being just about in the middle of the procession.  Early estimates had put the number of spectators expected in attendance around 40,000, although I think there was actually less.  My wife and neighbor Becky lead our small crew carrying a 3' x 6' black nylon banner.  We had a white truck, with 20" POW/MIA magnet signs pulling Rick in the Cage.  My daughter, Brittany (age 7) and our neighbor, Kyle (age 6) walked along side the trailer holding signs telling the spectators how many men remained unaccounted for from each war since WWII. With the exception of me, everyone else was in the back of the truck, waving flags and tossing candy.   I wore my BDUs (Battle Dress Uniform (camo fatigues)), had my wrists bound, and was tethered to the back of the trailer.  I must admit at this point, that I went into this thing with high expectations...and they were all dashed about 5 minutes into the parade.  I assumed that adults would recognize what we were doing...or at least what the cage was all about.

Since it was a Halloween parade, our message was lost on just about everyone sitting street-side...with the exception of a few people.  Many people laughed and made snide comments (young and adult alike) and no one, save for one man, corrected their children.  The kids called out phrases like "Your Bad" and asked why Rick was in Jail...several took it upon themselves to throw candy back at us.  No one seemed to understand why we were there and what we were trying to say.  I suppose one could say that it was a mistake to expect so much from a Halloween parade...but what could be scarier than the thought of an American, cold and lonely, in a land far away...abandoned and forgotten by the very Government that put him (or her) there!  As a veteran, that scares me a hell of a lot more than any costumed freak or cartoon character that made their way down the road that night.

I can take comfort in the fact that, no matter how frustrated, sad, and disappointed I was, I know that we succeeded in making people aware.  Many people read the signs Brittany and Kyle were carrying and I saw many, many jaws drop in disbelief that night.  As I lay in bed later that evening I cast the blame to the school systems and to the Veterans Organizations for not teaching our young people more about our POWs and MIAs and not doing more about bringing them home.  If our Veterans Organizations would take a more proactive stance on the issues...I might not be writing this and you wouldn't be reading this on a website about POW/MIAs in the year 2003.  I can promise one thing...this community has NOT seen the last of us, nor have they seen the last of that cage either!!!

Anyway...we took some pictures early on in the evening and I will put them up for all to see just as soon as I can get them developed.  Most, if not all, are from when we were setting up...no one remembered (myself included) to take pictures after the parade started...so check back soon!  

Before closing out, I would like to thank everyone who had a hand in helping get our message out to the general public.

Rick Will (for the cage, the consultation, and the many lessons),
bullet Randy and Beverly Nehr,
bullet Sean, Becky, Erin, and Ryan,
bullet Fred, Deb, Kyle, and Jarrod ,
bullet Mr. & Mrs. Gary Blouse of Blouse Sign Co.,
bullet Off-duty Commander (wife) Stacy and daughter Brittany,
bullet ...and thanks to those in the Community of Hanover, PA who do know and care about our POWs and MIAs!


[ Notable Books ]

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Leave No Man Behind by Garnett "Bill" Bell with George J. Veith

Kiss the Boys Goodbye : How the United States Betrayed Its Own P.O.W.S. in Vietnam by Monika Jensen-Stevenson, William Stevensen

A heart-ripping autobiography of Colonel Jim Thompson, America's Longest-Held Prisoner of War.

by Frank Anton , Tommy Denton (Contributor), and Frank Anton

One Day Too Long by Timothy N. Castle

Five Years to Freedom by James N. Rowe

Code-Name Bright Light: The Untold Story of U.S. POW Rescue Efforts During the Vietnam War by George J. Veith



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