America has lost one of its greatest, most inspiring military heroes and patriots: Col. George E. “Bud” Day (USAF, ret.), recipient of the Medal of Honor and more than seventy other decorations for valor, passed away on July 27, 2013, ending a remarkable life of service to American freedom.
Bud Day served in the USMC in WWII; in the Army between wars; and in the Air Force as a combat pilot in the wars in Korea and Vietnam.
Honored for his heroics in combat in three wars, he literally became a “legend in his own time” for his inspiring heroism in resisting his North Vietnamese communist captors as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, for which he received the Medal of Honor.
While the Medal of Honor and other decorations for valor on Bud Day’s uniform attest to his inspirational courage, integrity, patriotism, and heroism, perhaps even more poignant evidence is the respect, admiration, and even love his fellow warriors and POW’s hold and express for him.
Among them, former POW and now Senator John McCain, who has for years credited Bud Day with preserving his life when near death when both were POW’s in the Hanoi Hilton, and has referred to him as the “bravest of the brave” and as his “leader and inspiration,” issued a statement from his office in the Capitol on learning of Col. Day’s passing:
“Today brings the sad news that my dear friend and comrade, Colonel George E. ‘Bud’ Day, USAF (Ret.) has passed away. I owe my life to Bud, and much of what I know about character and patriotism. He was the bravest man I ever knew, and his fierce resistance and resolute leadership set the example for us in prison of how to return home with honor. I will have much more to say about Bud’s courage, kindness and sense of honor and duty this week. For now, I want to draw Americans’ attention to the passing of this good man and great patriot, and to extend my deepest, most heartfelt condolences to Bud’s wife, Dorie and his children. I will miss him terribly.”
On Bud Day’s life, Medal of Honor recipient, and Past President of the Medal of Honor Society, Col. Leo Thorsness (USAF, ret.), who was a POW in solitary confinement for a year in “Camp Punishment” in Hanoi in a six-foot wide cell next to Bud Day, wrote in his book, “Surviving Hell:
“Bud Day [was] one of the toughest POWs in North Vietnam…His story had become something of a legend: shot down and captured, a daring escape soon after, and a desperate journey south to safety. He was shot and captured within sight of the American line and brought to Hanoi where his legend had grown by the maximum resistance he offered as a prisoner. Bud was the hardest of the hard men in the Hanoi Hilton. (He would be awarded the Medal of Honor for the bravery he displayed in captivity.) I felt lucky he was next door to me.”
Another Past President of the Medal of Honor Society, Maj. Gen. Patrick H. Brady (USA, ret.,) who received the Medal of Honor as a “Dust Off” medical evacuation helicopter pilot credited with carrying out over 5,000 rescues of the wounded in Vietnam (see his book on “Dust Off: America’s Battlefield Angels”), noted Bud Day’s heroism in war was matched by his dedication to defending veterans rights in peace as apro bono attorney
suing the Department of Defense on behalf of veterans.
“Bud Day was a great man,” said Gen. Brady, who is himself recognized as one of the most decorated combat veterans in U.S. history. “What is not as well known is what Bud Day did for veterans issues. He took on the Department of Defense when they reneged on the promise they made to all retirees on a life time of health care.”
On Bud Day’s passing on July 27, 2013, another legendary POW and American hero, Orson Swindle (USMC, ret.), who later served in the administration of President Ronald Reagan, was National Chairman of Veterans For McCain in 2008, and is presently a Senior Advisor to to the Board of Directors of Combat Veterans For Congress PAC, wrote movingly in an e-mail entitled “Bud Day has flown West and God has the greatest of wingmen”:
“To you all who knew Bud from our campaigns together and other walks of life. I sent this to our POW net earlier this evening. We have lost a great man, a great American, and a great friend.”
For detailed reports on Col. Bud Day’s remarkable see the following links: www.Military.com[http://www.military.com/daily-news/2013/07/29/col-bud-day-medal-of-honor-recipient-dies-at-88.html?ESRC=eb.nl
(See also Bud Day’s autobiography, “Return With Honor”; the excellent biography written by Robert Coram: “American Patriot: The Life and Wars of Colonel Bud Day (2007); and the stories on Bud Day as a P.O.W. in John G. Hubbell’s authoritative, and now classic: “P.O.W.: A Definitive History Of The American Prisoner-Of-War Experience In Vietnam (1964-1973).)
(Rees Lloyd, a longtime civil rights attorney and veterans activist, is a member of the Victoria Taft Blogforce.)