A POW in World War II, Dayton Shell was 19 on the beaches at Normandy and continued to fight bravely until the enemy captured his unit.
Gulf Coast VA employees participated in a Prisoner of War (POW)/Missing in Action (MIA) Recognition Day ceremony Sept. 17 in Pensacola, Florida.
The ceremony highlighted the importance of recognizing service members who have sacrificed considerably while serving in the U.S. armed forces.
“This is an event we at Gulf Coast VA recognize in all we do,” Director Bryan C. Matthews said. “We’re committed to providing the best health care possible to those who have worn the cloth of our nation. We honor all of these brave men and women.”
The ceremony centered around Shell, a 98-year-old World War II Army Veteran born and raised in Tilden, Nebraska. He was a POW after his badly outnumbered unit surrendered to German forces in France in 1944.
Shell recognized as inspiration for generations
“Mr. Shell, on behalf of the Gulf Coast Veterans Health Care System, I am honored to welcome you today. Your sacrifice has inspired generations of service men and women. Thank you for your service.”
The Army drafted Shell on March 2, 1943. Scarcely more than a year after that, he was on the beach in Normandy, France, during D-Day as a 19-year-old soldier.
After surviving that horrific battle, Shell continued with his unit toward Saint Lo, France. He fought in The Battle of the Hedgerows which took place July 7- 19, 1944.
Emotionally moved during ceremony
Shell, visibly moved during the recognition, received a commemorative coin during the ceremony.
Also attending were Council on Aging West Florida Retreat Director Jessica Ayers, Former Prisoner of War Advocate Rikki Vidak, Chaplain Gary Morris, and Certified Prisoner of War Examining Physician Dr. Mary Brawn.
Since 1979, POW/MIA Recognition Day is observed the third Friday in September. The observance provides the opportunity as a nation to remember its responsibility to stand behind those who have served their country. It also underscores the ongoing efforts to account for those who did not return.
The Gulf Coast Veterans Healthcare System’s headquarters is in Biloxi, Mississippi. It provides a variety of medical outpatient services to more than 77,000 Veterans and other beneficiaries at five locations in Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.