Edward DeMent, an former prisoner of war, shared his experience as a POW during World War II at the POW/MIA Breakfast at Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany on Tuesday. It was the 26th annual event at recognizing ex-POWs and servicemembers still unaccounted for.
MCLB-ALBANY, Ga. -- Edward DeMent entered the Army Air Corps in September 1942 with the mindset that enlisting was the right thing to do at the time.
Little did he know what would happen to him.
DeMent, a native of Chicago, shared his story at the POW/MIA Breakfast at Marine Corps Logistics Base-Albany on Tuesday.
DeMent is now the commander of the St. Petersburg, Fla., Chapter of the American Ex-Prisoners of War as well as the organization's national director for the Southeast. He is also a trustee with the Friends of Andersonville Prisoner of War Camp.
Before that, he was a B-24 gunner who was a prisoner of war in Europe from April 3, 1944, until he was liberated on April 29, 1945.
DeMent was captured after his plane was hit as it was approaching the crew's target in Hungary. The hit first struck the navigator, he said, before going through a window and knocking out an engine.
"We lost power fast. We were ordered to bail out," he recalled.
After bailing out at 10,000 feet, he was on the ground for a few hours before being spotted by two Germans. He was blindfolded, walked down the side of a mountain and put onto a flatbed truck.
He was eventually put on a civilian train before ending up at a camp 90 miles southeast of Berlin.
At Tuesday's breakfast, he went on to talk about the supplements the captives were fed -- and even about how his camp received donations of sporting goods and musical instruments.
"I don't know if the other camps were like ours," DeMent said. "We were lucky."
He was also able to recollect the day he was released. He woke up to a bombardment, which was coming from a battle that ultimately resulted in his liberation from the camp.
Arrangements were made to get stateside, and DeMent eventually arrived back home the following June, he said.
Before leaving the podium, there were a few words he wanted to share about patriotism -- and about the significance of the American flag.
"It's not about words, it's about feelings," he said. "It's about the emotions you get when you (see the flag or sing the 'Star Spangled Banner').
"We identify ourselves by certain colors. It's a symbol of our country."
Statistics from the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office current as of Friday show that there are still 83,417 American servicemembers unaccounted for from World War II onward.
World War II makes for the bulk of that, with 73,681 still missing.
Among the others in attendance at the breakfast included Col. Donald Davis, commanding officer of MCLB-Albany; Col. Stephen Medeiros, commander of Marine Depot Maintenance Command; Sgt. Maj. Conrad Potts, the base's sergeant major and Brig. Gen. Thomas Gorry, commander of Marine Corps Installations East.
Several of these officials, including Gorry, were at Dougherty Comprehensive High School later Tuesday morning to tour the facilities there. The school is among those zoned to the children living on base at MCLB.