AMERICUS, Ga. (WALB News) - Friday [September 18, 2009] is national POW/MIA Recognition Day and people gathered on the Georgia Southwestern University campus to hear a story about a former soldier who was captured in the Persian Gulf War.
Retired Army Sergeant First Class Daniel Stammaris remembers February 27th, 1991. The day he was captured by Iraqi forces during the Persian Gulf War.
"Probably, about the time we got shot down, I would guesstimate about 5:30. It was getting to be dusk," Stammaris said.
Stammaris was shot down while serving as the crew chief of a Blackhawk helicopter. After eight days, he was turned over to the International Red Cross. But like many former POWs, the memories of his time in captivity are long lasting.
"I was writing a deposition on it when all these thoughts came flooding back in with them punching me and slapping me," he said.
Thursday at Georgia Southwestern University in Americus, Daniel found the strength to tell his story to an audience of about 200.
For the students, staff and the general public who were in attendance, the lecture was an eye opening experience. Many of them have served or have had relatives who have served.
"I have a brother who just retired from the military," said Miranda Thomas, a Student Service Coordinator at Georgia Southwestern University.
And for the students who were here, there is an important lesson for them, one that isn't necessarily in the history books.
"They should have gotten a very honest reflection of a POW that were able just to self-reflect," said Thomas.
The speech today by Sgt. 1st Class Stammaris is one of several events being planned this week at Andersonville and here at Georgia Southwestern.
The Andersonville National Historic Site worked with the university on the lecture. They have several activities going on for the rest of the week, beginning on Friday: "we're having...at 11:00 o'clock in the morning, a dedication by the former Korean War Prisoners of War," said Brad Bennett, Superintendent of the Andersonville National Historic Site.
And lasting through Saturday: "we're having the final ceremony within the park, and that is the ceremony for those who have returned," said Bennett.
Despite his time as a prisoner, Daniel holds no resentment towards the Iraqi people.
"The Iraqi people, like any people, you have good, bad and regular in between," he said.
And the one lesson that he wants the people to take away from his lecture is that: "(sighs) we always need to remember."
A lesson that all Americans need to learn, regardless of the conflict.