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98-year-old former Prisoner of War joins Scott for POW/MIA Day recognition

  • Published
  • By Abigail Cole
  • 375th Air Mobility Wing Public Affairs

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. -- The Air Force Sergeant’s Association and members of Team Scott partnered for the 13th annual POW/MIA Day wreath laying ceremony and vigil run, Sept.15-16.

National POW/MIA Recognition Day is a day of reflection that honors the costs of war paid by thousands of American service members and their loved ones; where Americans reflect and remember service members captured during times of war and those still missing in action.

This year’s honoree, Wilbert “Vince” Rolves, was held as a Prisoner of War for 18 months in Germany during World War II and is a recipient of a Silver Star, Bronze Star, and two Purple Hearts.

During the closing ceremony of this year’s POW/MIA vigil, Rolves participated in a fireside chat with Chief Master Sgt. Thomas Blount, the 375th Air Mobility Wing command chief.

“I was 198 pounds when I got there and about 109 pounds when we were freed,” Rolves said. “You could never know what it was like. It wasn’t the best diet, but it kept us alive.”

By way of introduction, Blount described his personal experience with Rolves from earlier that morning.

“You’re almost 100 years old, and you drove me to this event today,” Blount said. The crowd laughed when Blount added, “I offered to drive, but somehow I ended up in the back seat!”

Approximately 50 Airmen were in attendance, listening to Rolves recount his POW experience and describe the day he was released along with 8-10 other Soldiers.

“The Russian army came through and shot the locks off the gates and let us loose, saying you are free to go,” he said. “So, we were about 50 miles away from the river and they told us how to get there on foot. We made it.”

Near the conclusion of the fireside chat, Rolves opened it up, and an Airman asked if he ever felt like he would not live another day in captivity.

“There was plenty of times I didn’t think I’d make it back to the good old USA,” Rolves said. “But thank God, I made it.”