It was a difficult day for Clifford Petrey, as Fort Hood honored him and remembered Soldiers still listed as prisoners of war and missing in action Friday during the post’s annual POW/MIA Recognition Day wreath laying ceremony at Abrams Physical Fitness Center.
As dozens of local veterans organizations layed their wreaths, Petrey fought back tears – tears he sheds for those who remain unaccounted for throughout the years.
“It’s tough … it’s hard on me,” Petrey described through tears. “Most of them (POWs) have passed on now. I’m one of the very few who remain.”
Hit by a Chinese hand grenade during the Battle of Chosin Reservoir during the brutal winter of 1950 during the Korean War, Petrey said he was wounded and freezing in North Korea, when he was suddenly saved from the brutal weather. Nearly frozen to death, Petrey said he passed out, only to awaken with his feet being warmed on the stomach of a fellow Soldier. It was then when Petrey realized his “saviors” were now his captors. He was held by China as a POW for 32 months, 10 days, before finally being returned. He credits his faith for helping him get through his ordeal.
Soon after being discharged in 1954, Petrey returned to active duty because he missed his Family – the military. Petrey served in the Army for 30 years, before retiring as a master sergeant.
“I loved it. I would do it again if I could,” Petrey said. “To be around the military – I love it – that’s why I chose to stay in this area. I can come to Fort Hood to get my charge, get my batteries charged. I love to be around Soldiers.”
The annual POW/MIA Recognition Day ceremony, which honors the missing and unaccounted for Americans, was hosted by Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center. The program’s guest speaker was Congressman Roger Williams (Texas-District 25), who challenged people to find a veteran and shake his or her hand, thanking them for their service.
“Today we remember the most elite protectors of the United States of America. At a time when our nation is so desperately searching for heroes, these brave souls have filled that void,” Williams said. “This nation is forever grateful for those who protect America and we must always continue to honor them. We must always continue to account for those warriors who have never returned.”