When Air Force Capt. Ralph Galati ejected from his plane and was held captive in Vietnam for more than a year, he took solace in the fact that his fellow Americans were raising awareness of prisoners of war like himself.
In fact, he was able to tell other POWs about efforts like the creation of the POW/MIA flag and POW bracelets.
“It was a big injection of motivation for the guys who have been there for five to eight years,” Galati said. “As bad as it was, we never felt abandoned. We knew our country was going to get us back.”
Galati, who was released in 1973 after 406 days of captivity, recounted that story Friday evening at Newark’s annual POW/MIA remembrance ceremony. He noted there are still more than 82,000 American service members who never returned from overseas and thanked the University of Delaware ROTC cadets, VFW Post 475 members and Newark residents who attended the event.
“The impact may not be seen right away, but I appreciate it, and veterans appreciate it,” Galati said. “The mere fact you’re not forgetting is important.”
Friday’s ceremony was part of the 13th-annual 24-hour vigil on the Academy Lawn in observance of National POW/MIA Recognition Day.
Working in shifts, UD ROTC cadets stood at attention, rifles in hand, silently and solemnly guarding the war memorial that lists the names of Newarkers killed in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. Meanwhile other cadets ran a continuous loop around downtown while carrying the POW/MIA flag, and cages representing the way some prisoners of war were held were displayed on the Academy Lawn.
Kathy Bowman Mosher also spoke at the ceremony, just a few feet away from the plaque listing the name of her brother, Richard Alan Bowman, who was killed in the Vietnam War at the age of 20. She listed several local families who never found out what happened to their loved ones who fought for their country.
While she has her brother’s medals and can visit his grave, those families have only questions, she said.
“The POW/MIA families, however, live in a perpetual hell waiting for their day to commence healing and closure, never again to suffer another day of not knowing about their loved ones,” Mosher said.