South Carolina veterans who were prisoners of war during World War II were the first to receive new special state medals for their time in captivity.
In a Statehouse ceremony Thursday, Gov. Nikki Haley and Adjutant General Robert Livingston presented the South Carolina Prisoner of War Medal to 12 veterans, as well as the widows and family of eight other former POWs.
“It’s not about just the day that it happens. It’s not about the week that it happens,” the governor said during the ceremony. “It’s the month, it’s the year, and it’s making sure that family always understands we will never forget.”
The POW medal was created by the Legislature in a June 2014 law that authorizes the governor to present the award to South Carolina residents who are on federal POW lists. Any former POW who received an honorable discharge and is a South Carolina citizen can apply for the medal. While it was solely World War II vets who were honored on Thursday, former prisoners from the Korean War, Vietnam War, or other conflicts are also eligible. Surviving spouses or descendants can also apply for the medal once.
The awards were among the final recommendations made by the South Carolina POW Commission before the group disbanded in 2012. “Our numbers are getting smaller all the time,” former chairman T.J. Martin, a former Korean War captive himself, said. “So there was only thing I’d like to do before we shut it down: that the state of South Carolina issue a medal to the living POWs and their widows, and so forth.
“I wanted all of these people to be recognized,” the Rock Hill Army vet said. “The major reason was… the youngest one (honored Thursday) is 88 years old. The oldest one is 97. They will not be here ten years from now.”
Veterans or their families seeking to apply for the medal can contact the Division of Veterans Affairs or the Adjutant General’s Office.
List of POWs who received the Prisoner of War Medal on Thursday
. Lt. Col. Chester Hacket, 96, Columbia, SC, Army Air Force, 1 year P.O.W. Camp “Lucky Strike”
· Capt. Robert S. Dunbar, 94, Army Air Corp, 9 months P.O.W. Camp Stalag Luft 3
· 1st Lt. Jack Moak, 93, Columbia, SC, 21 months P.O.W. Camps Luft 1-3 and 7A
· Lt. Ernest Jenkins, 97, Charleston, SC, 16 months P.O.W. Camps Luft and Barth Germany
· TECH Sgt. Lou Fowler, 91, Columbia, SC, 16 months P.O.W Camps Dulag Luft Fanfort, Stalag Luft 6, East Prussia
· Ssg. James N. Gatch, 92, Army Air Corp, 1 year P.O.W. Camp Stalag Luft 4 (accepted by his son Charles Gatch)
· TECH Sgt. Emerson Roberts, 92, Columbia, SC, U.S. Air Force, 11 months P.O.W. Camp Stalag Luft 4
· Sgt. Paul Hollen, 92, Mount Pleasant, SC, Army, 6 months P.O.W. Camps Neunberg and Mooseburg
· Ssg. Claud D. Young, 92, Army, 5 months P.O.W.
· Cpl. Bill Pebley, 88, Little Mountain, SC, Army, 4 months P.O.W. Camps Stalag 12 A&B
· Cpl. Pete Wylie, 91, Columbia, SC, Army, 4 months P.O.W. Camp Stalag 13 C
· Pvt. Paul Luckadoo, 93, Fort Mill, SC, Army, 10 months P.O.W. Camps Stalag 7 A&B
· Pvt. Reginald Salsbury, 90, Army, 9 months P.O.W. Camp Mooseburg