Southern Arizona celebrated EX-POW Recognition Day April 9 by sharing the stories of former prisoners of war at the Southern Arizona VA Health Care System (SAVAHCS) in Tucson.
The program was co-sponsored by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), SAVAHCS and the American EX-POW southern Arizona Chapter.
J.L. Pepe Mendoza, assistant public affairs officer for SAVAHCS, said the purpose of the program was to provide first hand information to the public and raise the awareness of the personal sacrifices and experiences these veterans experienced. â€œThis event has been here at the Southern Arizona VA Health care system for 28 years,â€ he said. â€œEach year we recognize ex-POWs who have given so much to the nation.â€
The group of former POWs gathered for the April 9 event was smaller than it had been in previous years. â€œAs you can see, the numbers have dwindled with each year,â€ Mendoza said. â€œThey bring their memorabilia, their memories and experiences. What makes it nice is that our employees have an opportunity to come and talk to them.â€
Richard Cooksley, 91, survived the Bataan Death March, imprisonment in the Philippines and forced labor in northern Japan. When asked about his longevity he shared his secret to long life. â€œDrink good Jack Daniels and donâ€™t take anything a doctor tells you,â€ he said, with a wink.
Cooksley made the journey to the April 9 event from his home in the border community of Bisbee, Ariz. â€œIt reminded us of Europe and we had been in Europe for three years,â€ he said. Cooksley remained in the Army after the war and ended his career as a â€œCold Warrior. â€œ
View Cooksleyâ€™s full account of his time as a POW at www.DavisMonthanAFBNews.com