Few Americans understand the cost of freedom better than former prisoners of war.
Over the past century, more than 140,000 U.S. troops spent time held captive by enemy forces. Veterans gathered in Biloxi Tuesday to recognize and remember former POW's.
Those recognized include World War Two veterans who survived prisoner of war camps in Germany and others who endured the infamous "Bataan Death March" in the Pacific.
April 9th is National POW Recognition Day. The message is simple: You Are Not Forgotten.
Former POW's understand sacrifice for the sake of freedom. These aging warriors heard praises from retired general James Garner, who emphasized the need for ongoing recognition and remembrance.
"There is no group of Americans more deserving of our admiration, gratitude and compassion," said Gen. Garner said.
Don Gautier wrote a personal account of how he survived the Bataan Death March. His means of endurance involved relying on faith and letting his mind escape the physical reality of military prison.
"Especially when you were being beaten. You'd try to remove yourself from the physical torture and get out in no man's land, so to speak. And kind of leave your body down there taking the beating," Gautier said.
Many of the POW's help educate others by sharing their personal stories. Bob Seitzinger spent ten and a half months in a German prisoner of war camp. He says POW's shared a common fear that's difficult to describe.
"And we were all scared because we thought Hitler would tell his troops to get rid of us. We were a burden on the German supply line," Seitzinger said.
Those who survived came away with a new appreciation for this "land of the free." They'll never forget when their freedom was taken away by the enemy.
Americans owe a debt of gratitude to the survivors. They may not seek recognition, but certainly deserve it.
As General Garner told the gathering, "There is no group of Americans more deserving of our admiration, gratitude and compassion."