VA in Iron Mountain recognizes three local surviving war prisoners

A care package was sent to the POWs
Published: Sep. 18, 2020 at 4:46 PM EDT
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IRON MOUNTAIN, Mich. (WLUC) -American flags line the road to the Oscar G. Johnson VA Medical Center; One flag stands out, the prisoner of war.

The medical center’s former POW/MIA patient advocate, Karen Thekan says, the VA currently has three individuals in their area to be acknowledged.

“It’s a very important day to remember those individuals,” said Thekan.

In the past, the medical center has honored the former POWs with a formal ceremony and special luncheon; however, due to COVID-19 precautions, this year’s ceremony was canceled. Instead, a care package was sent to the POWs. It includes a warm POW/MIA fleece sweater, ball cap, and pin, as well as letters of recognition from the medical center director and local congressional representatives.

John Moddie of Quinnesec, MI, served with the Army’s 590th Field Artillery in WWII. He was captured during the Battle of the Bulge in December of 1944.

“I think it’s nice, that people are interested enough to recognize us,” said Moddie.

The 95-year-old currently lives in the VA.

Another POW, John Kusmitch, of Kingsford, MI received his certificate Friday, in person. Kusmitch service in the US Army’s 25th Infantry Division during the Korean War. He was captured during the Spring Offensive in April 1951.

“The only thing we could do is just surrender,” said Kusmitch.

The almost 90-year old says looking back, he is glad POWs are not forgotten.

“I’m glad they came around to recognize this here,” he added.

The final POW, Robert Smith, of Hartland, Wisc. served with the U.S Army’s, 4th Armored Division. Smith was captured, along with others from his company, on Good Friday in 1945 during a POW rescue mission.

Thekan thanks the POWs for their service.

“We honor them today, and every day of the year, and we hold them in the highest regard,” she said.

For a short biography of each click here.

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