FORT LEE, Va. (Sept. 23, 2010) – About 200 members of the Fort Lee community gathered at a Sept. 16 luncheon in recognition of National Prisoners of War and Missing in Action Recognition Day.
The event took place at the Lee Club and featured James H. Beaver, who is the national chaplain of the American Ex-Prisoners of War and has earned a doctor of divinity degree.
Beaver served in the Army from 1949-1957 and earned the rank of sergeant first class. He was a prisoner of war from May 1951-August 1953.
Beaver outprocessed from the Army at Fort Lee, and he said this luncheon was the first time he’s visited the installation since.
During his remarks, he talked about the history of the Purple Heart and how he earned three of the awards. He said three people received the Purple Heart (which was then called the Badge of Military Merit) during the Revolutionary War, but the award wasn’t presented again until after World War I.
“I’m thankful for the Purple Heart, even though it was the easiest medal in combat to get – all we had to do was stand up or not duck quick enough,” joked Beaver.
The reverend received Purple Hearts for two combat injured and after being a POW in Korea.
Beaver said although he earned those awards, he was not a hero, but knew some heroes. He said Harry, a friend of his who was also a fellow prisoner of war in a Chinese camp during the Korean War, was a hero.
“Harry’s philosophy was simple – ‘the more trouble we can cause the Chinese, that means the more men they will have to guard us. The more men they have to guard us means they will have fewer men up on the front,’” said Beaver. “He was the ring leader of a group of four of us.”
Beaver said the Chinese called them reactionaries and troublemakers. He spoke of their times while they were prisoners and how they rebelled against the Chinese.
During the ceremony, retired Col. David J. Kolleda, Association of the United States Army Robert E. Lee Chapter president, presented Beaver with a memento of his speech here.
The official POW/MIA Recognition Day was Friday. The day is set aside to honor and remember those who were prisoners of war and those who are still missing in action.