Community Salutes MIAs, War Prisoners; Those Who Returned, or Haven't, Honored

Article excerpt

Byline: Rachel Davis, Times-Union staff writer

Just as the nation has engaged in conflicts across decades and oceans, its soldiers have marched through jungles, across deserts and down war-torn streets.

They were held captive in coffin-sized cell blocks and forced to labor in work camps. Others disappeared or were lost, their fates a mystery in the decades since.

They are American prisoners of war and the country's missing in action. From their experiences come stories of great homecomings and silent sacrifice, of daring rescues and failed missions. Of honor and defeat, courage and perseverance. "Their stories are your stories," said retired Navy Capt. Dan McCarthy, Jacksonville's director of military affairs.

McCarthy spoke to a crowd of 200 yesterday at All Saints Chapel at Jacksonville Naval Air Station. Nearly two dozen former prisoners of war, along with a couple of hundred military officials and civilians, attended the service on a day set aside to remember POWs and MIAs.

Their names are Jeremiah Denton, a Navy pilot who blinked "T-O-R-T-U-R-E" in Morse code during a 1966 televised interview in North Vietnam. And Air Force Capt. Scott O'Grady, an F-16 pilot who eluded Bosnian Serb forces in 1995 for six days before he was rescued.

After being released, they became politicians and instructor pilots, stayed in the service or became Florida retirees.

"I spent a few years in prison camp and so did my father, so we know what it's all about," said retired Chief Ed Creamer, a North Florida resident.

The former Japanese prisoner told his story of being shot down over the Bering Sea during World War II, picked up by a Japanese cruiser and held captive for 1,200 days. His father, Forrest Creamer, died a prisoner of war in Germany during World War I.

Capt. Dale Raebel of Jacksonville was shot down in August 1972 after he flew from the deck of the USS Saratoga in his A-7A Corsair. …