Ceremony attracts huge crowd
Culpeper Star Exponent
Saturday, April 24, 2004
Copyright © 2004
Flying 5,000 feet over a crowd of more than 1,000 cheering people, a black and white POW/MIA flag waved on the back of parachutist Jim Wine.
He landed in a baseball field across the street from the Culpeper County Public Schools’ central office, symbolically bringing the flag to its permanent home in the school system.
In a commemoration ceremony Friday afternoon, CCPS became the first school division in Virginia - and likely the nation - to permanently fly the official flag that honors prisoners of war and soldiers missing in action.
The principals of each public school in the county received one of the flags during the ceremony to fly beneath the American flags at their schools.
For guest speaker Commander Paul E. Galanti, giving the signal to send the parachutist to the ground was a personal victory. The Vietnam War pilot was shot down and held as a POW in the infamous “Hanoi Hilton” from 1966 to the war’s end in 1973.
“I’ve only made one parachute jump in my life,” Galanti said with a teasing smile, “and I don’t recommend it if you landed where I landed. But this guy is landing in what I think is the best city in Virginia.”
Galanti had another bittersweet moment before the ceremony when Culpeper County resident Margaret Prewoznik introduced herself and revealed she had worn a POW/MIA bracelet inscribed with Galanti’s name in honor of Vietnam veterans for more than 30 years. Prewoznik, whose son died in Vietnam, then gave the bracelet to Galanti.
Virginia Attorney General Jerry Kilgore, Del. Ed Scott, R-Madison, and other local legislators, mayors and about 200 veterans attended the hour-long ceremony, held in conjunction with the Culpeper County Board of Supervisors and the Culpeper Town Council.
Minutes after the Haymarket parachutist’s flawless landing, two Navy F-14 Tomcat fighter planes whizzed from the south 1,000 feet over the school in a military flyover, the Armed Forces’ tribute to POWs and MIAs.
In addition, the Culpeper Schools Foundation presented freshman Allison McLaughlin of Rixeyville and senior Dawn Jenkins of Amissville $500 scholarships for writing an essay and a poem, respectively, with the theme, “You Are Not Forgotten.”
Many agencies only raise the flag on POW/MIA Recognition Day, the third Friday in September. Cox got the idea to fly the flag year-round when Clif Lewin, Wayne English and other members of the local chapter of Rolling Thunder pointed out that 19 area residents are surviving prisoners of war or are still missing in action.
The Vietnam Veterans of America, American Legion, and Veterans of Foreign Wars also worked on the project.
The display of the POW/MIA and American flags together makes a poignant contrast, said Art Foss, president of Virginia Chapter 3 of Rolling Thunder. The flag showing a drawing of a POW in captivity above the statement “You Are Not Forgotten” stands for loneliness, torture and captivity, Foss said.
For Rolling Thunder, the word “unrecoverable” is unacceptable, Foss said. The organization has vowed to make sure all soldiers - living or dead - are found and returned to their homeland.
“Some might say we’re doing a little bit of God’s work - and that may be,” Foss said. “But I say we’re doing what the United States government should be doing.”
Noëlle Bye may be reached at 825-0771 ext. 125 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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