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Chris Lauret, a Marine Corps veteran, holds his hand to his heart during the national anthem during the National Prisoners of War and Missing in Action Recognition Day ceremony at Lejeune Memorial Gardens in Jacksonville, N.C., Sept. 20

Photo by Lance Cpl. Jackeline Perez River

Their sacrifice, our freedom

20 Sep 2013 | Lance Cpl. Jackeline M. Perez Rivera

 A former Operation Desert Storm prisoner of war shared the tale of his survival with members of the local community during the National Prisoners of War and Missing in Action Recognition Day ceremony at Lejeune Memorial Gardens in Jacksonville, N.C., Sept. 20.

During the ceremony, retired Chief Warrant Officer Guy Hunter gave a historical perspective of POWs before speaking of his own experiences of starvation, no medical care, constant torture and interrogation.

“It was brutal,” said Hunter.

Throughout the ordeal it was hope that kept him going, he said. His hope was fueled by signs the U.S. military was near, such as the sounds and the frequent tremors of bombs dropped by aircraft.

During one interrogation, his captors told him they would cut off his fingers the next day, and he had no doubt they meant it, said Hunter.

However, that night the U.S. military aircraft attacked the building killing many of the captors. The POWs received minimal bruising and were moved to a different facility.

Hunter would not return home until the end of the war, when his captors released him and fellow prisoners to the International Red Cross.

While he faced constant threats during his one and a half month captivity, Hunter said his experience paled in comparison to his family’s concerns throughout the ordeal.

“We knew what was happening,” said Hunter. “Our families just didn’t know. I was struck by how much of a hard time my wife and family must have had not knowing what was happening to me.”

Throughout Hunter’s experience, he said he prayed his wife would stay strong, and she did, he added. Hunter was amazed by her endurance in the face of uncertainty.

“Somebody had to take the kids to school,” said Hunter. “She had no alternative. She did a great job.”

Hunter passed a message of hope, saying hope strengthened him and his family throughout the ordeal.

“It’s important to keep hope alive for family members,” said Roland Jack, the chapter president of Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 892.

Hunter and others spoke of America’s only current POW, Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl and urged action from guests. Hunter encouraged guests to write letters asking for a renewed effort to find him.

“It’s important that we remember those who are still unaccounted for,” said Gail Horn, a retired Marine. “A lot of families still haven’t had closure.”

The ceremony was hosted by Rolling Thunder Chapter NC-5. It included a vigil as well a musical tribute, Missing Man Table ceremony and a Walk of the Wall procession with a ceremonial Flame of Freedom.

“We should never forget our prisoners of war,” said Paul Silverson, a retired Marine. “Whether you’re active duty, a retiree, a veteran or a member of the general community, you have to take the time to remember.”

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