Service caps from all branches of the military rest on the POW/MIA table as Leonard Kovar speaks about being a POW in WWII during a Recognition Day Breakfast at the Recce Point Club, Beale Air Force Base, Calif., Sept. 21, 2012. The event was organized by Air Force Sergeants Association Chapter 1372. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Allen Pollard/Released)
Members of Team Beale’s Honor Guard perform a three-shot volley during a POW/MIA ceremony at Heritage Park, Beale Air Force Base, Calif., Sept. 21, 2012. The third Friday in September was chosen to honor servicemembers who were prisoners of war and those who are still missing in action. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Robert M. Trujillo/Released)
Veterans and Members of Team Beale salute as U.S. Air Force T-38 Talon jet trainers perform a fly-by during a POW/MIA ceremony at Heritage Park, Beale Air Force Base, Calif., Sept. 21, 2012. The third Friday in September was chosen to honor those who were prisoners of war and those who are still missing in action. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Allen Pollard/Released)
Leonard Kovar and his wife Lorraine are escorted by Airmen to a POW/MIA ceremony at Heritage Park, Beale Air Force Base, Calif., Sept. 21, 2012. Kovar, a POW in 1944 during WWII was the event’s guest speaker. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Robert M. Trujillo/Released)
by Senior Airman Allen Pollard
9th Reconnaissance Wing Public Affairs
9/28/2012 - BEALE AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Team Beale observed National POW/MIA Recognition Day with a remembrance breakfast, WWII veteran guest speaker, and flyover, Sep. 21.
National POW/MIA Recognition Day honors the nation's prisoners of war and those who are or were missing in action while serving in the United States Armed Forces.
The breakfast began with traditional military customs including posting the colors, national anthem and invocation. A missing man table set for four at the front of the room represented Americans missing from one of the four services: Air Force, Army, Navy and Marines.
"Freedom isn't free," said Leonard Kovar, a World War II POW and guest speaker for the event.
Following the ceremony and breakfast, Kovar addressed the guests about his challenges during captivity.
As a second lieutenant, Kovar served as a bombardier and navigator aboard a B-24 Liberator bomber. His aircraft was shot down Aug. 22, 1944, during a mission over Vienna, Austria. After successfully bailing out of his aircraft, he evaded enemy patrols for two days.
"I had two choices, head towards the enemy or away," Kovar said. "So I ran towards them and burrowed under a bush until the enemy forces looking for me moved past."
Kovar was eventually captured and held in prison camps in Nuremberg and Moosberg before being taken to Stalag Luft III POW camp.
Kovar said it is very difficult to survive alone while in captivity.
"Having a friend during those dark times made all the difference in the world," Kovar said. "Have faith, wherever you may find it, and don't give up hope."
Gen. George S. Patton's forces liberated the camp in 1945, and Kovar returned home that summer. He writes about his experiences while in captivity in his recently published book "WWII, Prisoner of War, How I Survived."
The event was capped off by the playing of taps, a three shot volley, and missing man formation flyover performed by four U.S. Air Force T-38 Talon jet trainers at Heritage Park.
"Here in our own very small way we honor those who've served before," said Col. Douglas Lee, 9th Reconnaissance Wing vice commander. "It is a reminder that their service is not forgotten."