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Fort Bragg Soldiers Commemorate Present and Past POWs

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FAYETTEVILLE — The capture of three American soldiers during the Kosovo war has added special meaning to POW-MIA Commemoration Day.

Soldiers atFort Braggreceived an important lesson Monday from surviving Prisoners of War.

The 18th Field Artillery Brigade sponsored the Commemoration Day because leaders thought the young soldiers did not know enough about the history behind the POW-MIA flag.

Surrounded by former Prisoners of War, soldiers laid a wreath and raised a flag to honor past and present POWs.

"Today we pray for the safe return of Staff Sgt. Andrew Ramirez, Staff Sgt. Christopher Stone and Spc. Steven Gonzales," said Col. Dennis Lewis, Brigade Commander.

The POW-MIA Commemoration Day was planned well before three Americans were captured in Yugoslavia. Those developments made the veterans' stories even more real.

"If you happened to miss just two meals, then you were history, because you would die within the next day and a half," said former POW Caris Levert.

At the symposium, more than 1,000 soldiers heard from former POWs and their rescuers. It was an effort to prepare young GIs for war and the possibility of capture.

They asked lots of questions, and the answers often focused around their duties as soldiers.

Those obligations are what three American soldiers in Yugoslavia are relying on. Yellow ribbons remain tied around a tree as a reminder.

The yellow ribbons will remain tied around the tree until the POWs return home safely. They are also going to place a permanent marker by the flagpole so that POWs will be thought of every day of the year.

One Durham man is making his mark on POW-MIA day.

Former Navy Chaplain Hugh Lecky says he will be in his yard all day and all night. His empty chair represents the POWs and those missing in action. A wheelchair represents veterans wounded in battle.

"I sit out here and give 24 hours of my life to remind the people of Durham, Durham County, Raleigh and Orange County and so forth that these people are still gone," said Lecky.

Lecky says he was captured by the enemy in Vietnam. He feels many American soldiers are still being held in Southeast Asia.