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Surviving prisoner of war urges others to remember missing soldiers

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CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -
Friday is National Prisoner of War/Missing in Action Recognition Day. It's a special day for veteran Bill Norwood, who survived 2.5 years in an enemy prison camp during the Korean War.

Local veterans gathered Friday to honor the sacrifices of American soldiers -- the ones who've never made it back home. According to the Department of Defense, 83,189 Americans are listed missing or unaccounted for. Over 200 of them are Tennesseans.

Many of Norwood's friends still haven't made it back home.

"I think my greatest worry was being forgotten left in a place like that," said Norwood.

He still feels lucky to be in Cleveland today. Norwood was captured by Chinese troops on April 25, 1951. The enemy gave him a choice: "Give your life or stand a chance surviving another hour, another day, or in my case, two and a half years."

More than 60 years have passed, but the bad memories are still fresh.

"I was one of the fortunate ones to be able to come home, but a lot of my buddies were not," Norwood said. "They're still there."

The Cleveland VFW post held a POW/MIA Remembrance Ceremony on Friday morning. One chair was kept empty to represent all those still missing.

Norwood remembers one of his fellow POWs who escaped and was recaptured. Enemy soldiers forced the imprisoned Americans to watch the man dig his own grave.

"He turned his back to the firing squad. The enemy demanded he turn and face them. He said, 'Shoot me in the back like the cowards you are.' And they did," remembered Norwood. "He's still there today."

Although the MIA list is staggering, there's still hope.

"Maybe he'll come home. But we don't forget."

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