More than a half million Americans have been captured and Interned as prisoners of war (P.O.W.) since the American Revolution. That's not Including the nearly 83,000 who are listed as lost, and never recovered.
Since 1971, on every third Friday In September, we honor and remember those mentioned on National Pow/Mia Recognition Day.
Local heroes from wars, past and present, turned out to the Erie Veterans Hospital to be recognized, and to remember those who weren't as fortunate to return home.
For veterans like David Vennberg, a World War II prisoner of war by the hand of Nazi’s , the path to freedom comes with loss, and humility
“I'm very grateful to have survived.” Vennberg said. “And I know that there were others that were more worthy than I that did not survive, and that will always be a mystery to me, that I'll always try to live the meaning of it all.”
Vennberg was not alone, fellow WW2 Nazi P.O.W. John Robb feels lucky to have made it home alive, and to still be living a good life at the age of 92.
“I feel very fortunate.” Robb said. “I came back, I went to college, went to dental school, and married a gal that I meant in school, an Erie girl, going on 63 years now.”
Robb was the only P.O.W. to speak during the ceremony. He told the story of coming into the war at the age of 18, the same as Vennberg. Over the course of his speech, Robb mixed in humor mixed with reflection on the conditions he and his fellow P.O.W.’s experienced after being captured during the “Battle of the Bulge” and imprisoned for four months by members of the Nazi regime .Both Vennberg and Robb were a part of the 106th infantry.
Though Vennberg did not speak during the ceremony, he did share why he felt it was important to attend an event such as this.
“I was spared, miraculously spared too.” Vennberg said. “And I think for the sake of those that didn’t make it, more worthy people than I, that’d I’d like to just, make my life more effective, and just live it well.”
Robb echoed the importance of sharing stories, though, for several years after returning home from the war, he did not speak of his experiences overseas, not even to his own family.
Robb’s silence held tough until around 1973 when his wife, Marilyn encouraged him to go to a reunion meeting with members of the 106th.Since then, the atrocities he and his group suffered through no longer carry weight over his shoulders.
The two men mentioned above were just among the many heroes in attendance. And after a moment of prayer and silence, both Robb and Vennberg, among other vets, received honorary challenge coins to mark the day. They also received golden memorial plates that were inscribed “for all who serve.”
A small token of gratitude for a major sacrifice.