Nothing meant more in captivity than seeing the American flag, a former prisoner of war said about his experience during a POW/MIA Remembrance Ceremony Sept.15 at Naval Support Activity Philadelphia.
Ralph Galati, the event’s guest speaker and a retired Air Force officer, became a POW after his aircraft was shot down over North Vietnam in 1972. He was held captive for 14 months.
He said for the first 24 hours after being captured, his mind was racing with, “What to do now? What is my first priority? What will happen to me next?
“After about a day, when I stopped feeling sorry for myself, it was time to begin acting like a military officer again,” Galati said. “When I finally realized that my mission as an officer had changed, it was no longer Ralph Galati, combat officer. It was now tied to adapt and follow the code of conduct.”
Galati said the code of conduct is six articles designed to help service members survive honorably as a POW and still be able to resist their captors. He said they seemed simple enough when he was going through flight school.
“Being a POW was more of an endurance test, a case of boredom mixed with fear,” Galati said. “It is a test of resiliency, it is a test of your makeup and your behavior.
“I often marvel today, 40-something years after the end of the war, that the POW flag still flies,” Galati said. “It is really remarkable that the American public has not forgotten.”
The annual remembrance ceremony was hosted by the Philadelphia Compound Veterans Committee. The theme for this year’s National POW/MIA Recognition Day, recognized Sept. 16, is “Fulfilling our Nation's Promise.”
Employees at Defense Logistics Agency Troop Support and other NSA Philadelphia organizations attended the ceremony.
“Programs such as this not only allow us to show our appreciation and the gratitude for those who have sacrificed so much serving our country, but also allows us the opportunity to shed light on such an important internment,” said Navy Capt. David Rhone, Naval Supply Systems Command Weapon Systems Support deputy commander of aviation.