Andersonville NHS hosts annual Memorial Day program

Published 10:19 am Wednesday, May 29, 2019

By Leila Case

ANDERSONVILLE — Although it happened more than 50 years ago, Capt. Bill Robinson, U.S. Air Force, (retired), remembers well the years he was a Vietnam prisoner of war, sharing portions of the experience at the annual Memorial Day service at Andersonville National Historic site Sunday afternoon.

The Robins Air Force Base Honor Guard presents the colors.

Despite the sizzling hot weather with temperatures approaching 100 degrees F., a crowd of about 400 citizens including many military veterans and their families turned out for the solemn event to honor and remember the men and women who have served our country through times of peace and war, especially those who lost their lives in the defense of the United States.

“I survived one day at a time with God as my co-pilot,” Robinson told the Times-Recorder prior to the formal program. Highly decorated, among which is the Air Force Cross for combat valor, the former POW spent seven and a half years including six months in solitary confinement during his captivity.

He spoke candidly about his method of coping. “I never gave up and I rolled with the punches because I had to be ready for the next round,” he said. “After my plane was shot down over north Vietnam in September 1965, and I was captured by enemy forces, I looked upon my situation as a three-day prison stay: yesterday, today and tomorrow.” Explaining, “I thought of yesterday as the day I was shot down, today as today, and tomorrow I am getting out (of prison), and I had to be ready to go. I did this to maintain my mental and physical health. I kept hope, faith in God, faith of others, faith in our country, stand strong, and never give up.”

Former prisoner of war Bill Robinson at the podium.

The annual observance began with patriotic musical selections played by the U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence Band from Fort Benning. Charles Sellars, superintendent of Andersonville National Historic Site and Cemetery, warmly welcomed attendees. Everyone stood to salute the American flag advanced by the Robins Air Force Base Honor Guard of Warner Robins and then joined in unison to repeat the Pledge of Allegiance to the U.S. flag and sing the National Anthem.

Jim Covington, president of the Friends of Andersonville, the organization that supports the National Historic Site, paid tribute to the men and women in the military who served in all American wars to ensure the freedoms we enjoy today. Each branch of the military was recognized as the band played a medley of each.

The program also included the laying of patriotic wreaths at the base of the roster presented by patriotic service organizations from a wide area of southwest Georgia, including several from Sumter County. They were Council of Safety Chapter Daughters of the American Revolution presented by Leila Case, regent, Phyllis Tucker, vice regent, and chapter member Brooks Nettum; Friends of Andersonville, presented by Melanie Grace; and Post 2 American Legion presented by Albert Foster, chaplain, and A.J. Root, vice commander, and also present was Commander Larry Smith.

The Rev. Bill Dupree, retired Methodist minister, gave a moving invocation and benediction, followed by a three-round volley fired by members of the American Legion Post 30, Albany, followed by Taps played by a lone bugler.