Fallen Airmen remembered at retreat ceremony

Several hundred Columbus AFB Airmen and guests pay tribute during  the POW/MIA retreat ceremony Wednesday.  The ceremony was part of the base's 60/65 heritage celebration. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Danielle Powell)

Several hundred Columbus AFB Airmen and guests pay tribute during the POW/MIA retreat ceremony Wednesday. The ceremony was part of the base's 60/65 heritage celebration. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Danielle Powell)

Celia Pryor Plenge and Elaine Pryor Davis, daughters of former WW II POW Col Roger Pryor, unveil a new street sign during the POW/MIA retreat ceremony Wednesday as Colonel Dave Gerber, 14th Flying Training Wing commander looks on.  Pryor Street will replace A street on Columbus AFB, Miss.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Danielle Powell)

Celia Pryor Plenge and Elaine Pryor Davis, daughters of former WW II POW Col Roger Pryor, unveil a new street sign during the POW/MIA retreat ceremony Wednesday as Col. Dave Gerber, 14th Flying Training Wing commander looks on. Pryor Street will replace A street on Columbus AFB, Miss. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Danielle Powell)

Rufus Ward Jr. reflects on the new street sign bearing his father's name at the POW/MIA ceremony.  Rufus Ward Sr., a Columbus native and B-17 tail gunner in WW II,  was a POW for 11 months after being shot down over Germany. Ward street will replace Fifth street on Columbus AFB, Miss.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Danielle Powell)

Rufus Ward Jr. reflects on the new street sign bearing his father's name at the POW/MIA ceremony. Rufus Ward Sr., a Columbus native and B-17 tail gunner in WW II, was a POW for 11 months after being shot down over Germany. Ward street will replace Fifth street on Columbus AFB, Miss. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Danielle Powell)

Honor Guard members Airman 1st Class Thomas Leguin, Airman LaQuan Conic and Airman 1st Class Matthew D'Arcangelo fold the American Flag during the POW/MIA Retreat ceremony Wednesday.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Danielle Powell)

Honor Guard members Airman 1st Class Thomas Leguin, Airman LaQuan Conic and Airman 1st Class Matthew D'Arcangelo fold the American Flag during the POW/MIA Retreat ceremony Wednesday. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Danielle Powell)

COLUMBUS AFB, Miss. -- The sound of "The Star-Spangled Banner" filled the air Wednesday at the POW/MIA retreat ceremony. 

This was a special retreat ceremony, with most of the 14th Flying Training Wing in attendance, tribute was paid to those who were considered a prisoner of war or missing in action while in combat. 

This retreat was also the first of many events that took place during the 60/65 heritage events at Columbus AFB. With the 60th Anniversary of the Air Force becoming an independent service taking place just the day before, there was much to celebrate during this ceremony. 

"Only one flag, other than the stars and stripes that represents the United States, has ever flown over the White House in Washington, D.C. The flag does not represent an individual state, branch of service or other select group, it is the Prisoners of War/Missing in Action flag," said Col. Dave Gerber, 14th Flying Training Wing commander. 

Prior to the playing of the national anthem and lowering of the flag, three streets on CAFB were renamed to honor deceased Airmen who were considered POW and MIA.
Second Street was renamed Lockhart Street in honor of Capt. George Lockhart. Capt. Lockhart graduated from CAFB with pilot training class 71-02. In 1972, a B-52 bomber from Anderson AFB, Guam, was sent on a bombing mission during the famous Christmas bombings to facilitate release of prisoners of war. Lockhart's aircraft was hit by a surface-to-air missile and he was later declared MIA. His remains were returned 16 years later and positively identified in 1989. 

Pryor Street, which is now A Street, was also be renamed. This street will be named to honor Col. Roger Pryor. He was the commander of the 2nd Fighter Squadron when he was shot down in an F-6D, formerly known as the P-51 Mustang, just north of Hmawbi Airfield, Burma, March 26, 1945. He was captured and a POW until liberated May 1, 1945. He retired from the Air Force in October 1966. The colonel's tally record includes five kills and three probables making him an "Ace" with the Flying Tigers. He died Aug. 26, 1989 in Gulfport, Miss. 

Fifth Street was renamed Ward Street in honor of Staff Sgt. Rufus Ward, Sr. A Columbus native, Ward enlisted in the Army Air Corps prior to World War II and became a B-17 tail gunner. During his sixth mission his aircraft was shot down over Germany. Ward was captured and spent 11 months as a POW. After the war, the sergeant returned to Columbus, Miss., and later became the co-owner of Ward and Kendrick Goodyear Tire Store for 40 years. Sergeant Ward passed away in 2001. 

Two of the families of these men were in attendance and took part in the ceremony. To present the new street sign, a family member of the deceased removed a cloth to unveil the new name. 

The recognition of this retreat ceremony helps to remind all of those who have come before and the sacrifices they have made. "It reminds us of those Americans who sacrificed their freedom to preserve liberty for each of us. It reminds us, while we enjoy the privileges of freedom, somewhere there are military members that have not been accounted for," said Col. Gerber. 

Following the renaming, the official retreat continued with the lowering of the flag while the onlookers paid their respect to the American flag. A T-38 missing man formation flew overhead and capped off the event. 

"For every servicemember who has gone missing or is a prisoner of war, there are dozen family members who endure the quiet agony of uncertainty about the true status of their loved ones," said Col. Gerber. "You cannot ignore the powerful imagery of the crosses lined in the rows of Arlington National Cemetery and Normandy. Those crosses remind us the high cost of freedom."