Honoring Prisoners of War on National Former POW Recognition Day

Honoring Prisoners of War on National Former POW Recognition Day

Former prisoners of war (POW) are living proof of the many sacrifices our nation has made to defend its freedoms and way of life. Having put their lives on the line, POWs endured starvation and physical and mental torture at the hands of their enemies – all to ensure the safety of their fellow Americans. 

April 9 is National Former POW Recognition Day – a day to honor the more than 500,000 American warriors who put themselves in harm’s way for their country. 

Former prisoners of war deserve our endless support and respect for the traumas they had to overcome while serving, and Navy Paddles wants to take you back in time to illustrate the impact of this significant anniversary. 

Here’s how we can honor America’s former prisoners of war on National Former POW Recognition Day.

POWs: Heroes From Day One

On April 9, 1942, the U.S. surrendered the Bataan Peninsula in the Philippines, and 78,000 American and Filipino troops were forced to march approximately 85 miles to a makeshift POW camp, according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

National Former POW Recognition Day takes place on April 9 to honor the thousands of service members who died along the way. 


Image Source: Mount Vernon

But even before World War II, the first recorded prisoners of war date back to the Revolutionary War in the late 1700s. It wasn’t until March 25, 1782, that the Americans who had been captured by the British (in as early as 1775) were legally deemed prisoners of war, thus “allowing them to be detained, released or exchanged.” 

National Former Prisoner of War Recognition Day pays tribute to all the prisoners of war throughout history, who experienced unimaginable suffering in the name of protecting their country.

Women Prisoners of War: Beating the Odds

Women POWs may be few and far between, but their strength and survival instinct are second to none. They have proven time and time again that they are natural-born leaders and will serve with honor when given the opportunity. 

Here are two notable women prisoners of war whose service and sacrifice are worth celebrating this National Former POW Recognition Day.

Delivering Joy & Canned Goods

As an Amazon operations manager, Army veteran Victoria Wilson facilitates the shipment of everything from commemorative plaques to puppy calendars. Victoria also heads up the local Amazon Warriors program where she and other Amazon-employed veterans continue to serve those in need.

Victoria’s chapter of the Amazon Warriors has provided unwavering support to the community during the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the events they’ve put together, these veterans have raised money for local food banks. They’ve even set up an online toy drive for foster kids.

Maj. Rhonda Cornum: An Inspiring POW Survivor

In the First Gulf War, the story of one brave POW stands out: Maj. Rhonda Cornum, a U.S. Army flight surgeon, was captured after her crew’s Black Hawk helicopter was shot down by Iraqi Forces in 1991. She was unconscious after having sustained multiple injuries, and awoke to Iraqi soldiers pointing their rifles at her.


Cornum was dragged to an underground cell where she was sexually assaulted by an Iraqi soldier. Showing true grit and character, she later stated that, “The molestation didn’t do a thing to me. It is just as irrelevant now as it was then.” She would eventually be released and tell the world of her horrific but inspiring story of resurrection.

Now a retired brigadier general, Cornum went on to have a stellar military career, inspiring other women by sharing her story and becoming a leader in promoting women’s combat roles. Her speeches, advocacy, and leadership by example helped paved the way for women’s inclusion in all combat roles in 2016.

Pvt. Jessica Lynch: An All-American Heroine

During Operation Iraqi Freedom, Pvt. Jessica Lynch was part of a convoy that took a wrong turn and was ambushed by enemy forces. Eleven of her fellow soldiers were killed, while she and five other Americans were wounded and captured. 

Lynch was taken to an Iraqi hospital, where her injuries were treated, and rescued shortly after during a successful raid by the U.S. Special Forces.

Today, Lynch is no longer part of the military, but she continues to serve her country as a teacher, imparting on future generations the importance of honor and leadership. She has also been featured in several books and movies.

Gifts for the Former POW in Your Life

Navy Paddles is a military spouse co-owned business, and we are constantly inspired by our fellow service members and former POWs like Cornum and Lynch. 

Our high-quality custom memorabilia celebrates the dedication, sacrifice, and bravery of the veterans, active-duty service members, and prisoners of war who have risked their lives to fight for our country’s safety and freedom.

Head to our online shop to find the perfect gift to honor the former POW in your life.

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