SJ observes the missing, honors those captured during POW/MIA week

Gaspar Gonzalez, a former Korean War Prisoner of War and U.S. Army Green Beret, speaks to members of Team Seymour during a Prisoners of War/Missing in Action Remembrance Ceremony, Sept. 15, 2016, at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina. Gonzalez spoke to more than 150 members about his time during the Korean War and the time he spent in captivity by the Chinese and his eventual escape. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Shawna L. Keyes)

Gaspar Gonzalez, a former Korean War Prisoner of War and U.S. Army Green Beret, speaks to members of Team Seymour during a Prisoners of War/Missing in Action Remembrance Ceremony, Sept. 15, 2016, at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina. Gonzalez spoke to more than 150 members about his time during the Korean War and the time he spent in captivity by the Chinese and his eventual escape. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Shawna L. Keyes)

Gaspar Gonzalez, a former Korean War Prisoner of War and U.S. Army Green Beret, listens while the national anthem is played, Sept. 15, 2016, at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina. Gonzalez was the guest speaker during Team Seymour’s annual POW/MIA closing ceremony and spoke about his capture by the Chinese during the Korean War in 1950. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Shawna L. Keyes)

Gaspar Gonzalez, a former Korean War Prisoner of War and U.S. Army Green Beret, listens while the national anthem is played, Sept. 15, 2016, at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina. Gonzalez was the guest speaker during Team Seymour’s annual POW/MIA closing ceremony and spoke about his capture by the Chinese during the Korean War in 1950. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Shawna L. Keyes)

The Seymour Johnson Air Force Base Honor Guard presents the flags during the Prisoner of War/Missing in Action remembrance ceremony, Sept. 15, 2016 at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina. Retired Sgt. 1st Class Gaspar Gonzalez, Korean War POW and former U.S. Army Green Beret, spoke about his experience being held captive and honoring those who never made it home.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Miranda A. Loera)

The Seymour Johnson Air Force Base Honor Guard presents the flags during the Prisoner of War/Missing in Action remembrance ceremony, Sept. 15, 2016 at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina. Retired Sgt. 1st Class Gaspar Gonzalez, Korean War POW and former U.S. Army Green Beret, spoke about his experience being held captive and honoring those who never made it home. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Miranda A. Loera)

Members of Team Seymour listen as Gaspar Gonzalez, a former Korean War Prisoner of War and U.S. Army Green Beret, speaks during a Prisoners of War/Missing in Action Remembrance Ceremony, Sept. 15, 2016, at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina. Gonzalez spoke about his time as a POW and asked those in attendance to take care of those who’d come back and the families of those still missing. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Shawna L. Keyes)

Members of Team Seymour listen as Gaspar Gonzalez, a former Korean War Prisoner of War and U.S. Army Green Beret, speaks during a Prisoners of War/Missing in Action Remembrance Ceremony, Sept. 15, 2016, at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina. Gonzalez spoke about his time as a POW and asked those in attendance to take care of those who’d come back and the families of those still missing. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Shawna L. Keyes)

Col. Brian Armstrong (left), 4th Fighter Wing vice commander, presents Gaspar Gonzalez, a former Korean War Prisoner of War and U.S. Army Green Beret, with a tail flash, Sept. 15, 2016, at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina. Armstrong gave closing comments during the POW/MIA Remembrance ceremony and thanked Gonzalez for his service and his empowering story of survival and escape as a POW. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Shawna L. Keyes)

Col. Brian Armstrong (left), 4th Fighter Wing vice commander, presents Gaspar Gonzalez, a former Korean War Prisoner of War and U.S. Army Green Beret, with a tail flash, Sept. 15, 2016, at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina. Armstrong gave closing comments during the POW/MIA Remembrance ceremony and thanked Gonzalez for his service and his empowering story of survival and escape as a POW. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Shawna L. Keyes)

Retired Lt. Col. John Coulter (left) runs with the Prisoners of War/Missing in Action flag alongside Senior Master Sgt. Rebecca Alaniz, 4th Medical Operations Squadron superintendent, Sept. 14, 2016, at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina. Coulter and Alaniz kicked off the 24-hour run that ended just before the closing ceremony the following day. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Shawna L. Keyes)

Retired Lt. Col. John Coulter (left) runs with the Prisoners of War/Missing in Action flag alongside Senior Master Sgt. Rebecca Alaniz, 4th Medical Operations Squadron superintendent, Sept. 14, 2016, at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina. Coulter and Alaniz kicked off the 24-hour run that ended just before the closing ceremony the following day. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Shawna L. Keyes)

Team Seymour members finish a run to show support for military members who are Prisoners of War/Missing in Action, Sept. 12, 2016, at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina. Each year, Seymour Johnson AFB dedicates a week of events to recognize our nation’s POW/MIAs to include ceremonies and runs. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ashley Williamson)

Team Seymour members finish a run to show support for military members who are Prisoners of War/Missing in Action, Sept. 12, 2016, at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina. Each year, Seymour Johnson AFB dedicates a week of events to recognize our nation’s POW/MIAs to include ceremonies and runs. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Ashley Williamson)

Four F-15E Strike Eagle aircraft from the 334th Fighter Squadron perform a missing man formation flyover during a Prisoners of War/Missing in Action Remembrance ceremony, Sept. 15, 2016, at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina. Gaspar Gonzalez, a former Korean War Prisoner of War and U.S. Army Green Beret, was the guest speaker during the ceremony and spoke about his 22 days in captivity by the Chinese during the Korean War. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Shawna L. Keyes)

Four F-15E Strike Eagle aircraft from the 334th Fighter Squadron perform a missing man formation flyover during a Prisoners of War/Missing in Action Remembrance ceremony, Sept. 15, 2016, at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina. Gaspar Gonzalez, a former Korean War Prisoner of War and U.S. Army Green Beret, was the guest speaker during the ceremony and spoke about his 22 days in captivity by the Chinese during the Korean War. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman Shawna L. Keyes)

SEYMOUR JOHNSON AIR FORCE BASE, N.C. --

Members of Team Seymour observed the Prisoners of War/Missing in Action Remembrance Week, Sept. 12-15, at Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina.

POW/MIA Remembrance Week pays respect to service members who were held captive or did not return home during past and present wars.

More than 50 Airmen kicked off the week with a 5K run that began in front of the 4th Fighter Wing headquarters building. Additionally, 120-miles were logged during a 24-hour run to keep the POW/MIA flag moving for an entire day, and concluded with a ceremony featuring guest speaker, retired Sgt. 1st Class Gaspar Gonzalez, a former Korean War POW and U.S. Army Green Beret.

“I’m just another person who’s served his country,” said Gonzalez. “Those people, you don’t know how many hours they’ve cried; anything can trigger their post-traumatic stress disorder. Every time that I hear our national anthem, tears come to my eyes, I don’t have to force the tears. Those poor guys that never made it back to see their families, those are the ones you have to have the most care for today. If you know anyone that their husband has been missing or anyone with PTSD, talk to them, make them feel wanted, loved.” 

Gonzalez was captured Nov. 22, 1950 by the Republic of China and spent 22 days in captivity. Gonzalez and his fellow prisoners made their escape by attacking one of their guards. Running barefoot, Gonzalez fled and was taken in by a local Korean family.  They hid him from the Chinese until they were able to deliver him to the U.S. Marines that were posted nearby.     

Gonzalez was taken back to the U.S. and spent seven months in the hospital, being treated for frost bite, a gunshot wound and PTSD. After recovering, he re-enlisted and volunteered to return to Korea with a special unit that worked behind Chinese lines. After the Korean War, Gonzalez fought in Vietnam and traveled all over the world for various conflicts.  

The ceremony ended with closing remarks from Col. Brian Armstrong, 4th Fighter Wing vice commander, and a missing-man flyover conducted by the 334th Fighter Squadron to honor those still missing and those who have fallen.

“Sgt. 1st Class Gonzalez’s story and the Code of Conduct reminds us all that in our commitment to serve we accept the challenges and inherent risk associated with defending our nation,” said Armstrong. “Today also reminds us that as service members we’re sworn to give everything when our country asks for it. Let us be reminded of the sacrifice it takes to be part of the world’s most powerful military and the price that is paid to be free. I stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the Airmen of Team Seymour and our pledge to maintain a constant state of readiness to answer our nation’s call and to never falter in our resolution to ensure every Airman returns home.”