Wilbert “Vince” Rolves says “being a POW is pretty rough. I fought hard for my country like I was supposed to, but I got caught.”
Rolves, who served with the 45th Infantry of the U.S. Army National Guard, was a POW during World War II.
He, like three other living POWs honored during the Scott POW/MIA Council’s recognition ceremony Saturday, Sept. 16 at the Sgt. Charles A. Fricke VFW Post 805 in O’Fallon, all agreed on one thing — the wish that all POW/MIA soldiers could be home again.
Rolves, 93, of Carlyle, was captured Dec. 18, 1943 by Germans during WWII and held for 18 months with about 17 others on a farm under harsh conditions. It wasn’t until May 1945, 83 pounds lighter, shaved head and sick that Rolves was liberated. His oral history is on file at the Veteran’s Memorial Library of Congress, American Folklife Center, in Springfield, Illinois.
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“It was sweet relief — but so many weren’t so lucky, and that weighs heavy,” Rolves said with a cracked voice after the ceremony.
Founding member of the council, Geoff Bambic, a retired U.S. Air Force master sergeant, said it is “a great honor” for him to be master of ceremonies paying “tribute to those of you that have sacrificed so much for this great country and to those who’ve paid the ultimate sacrifice.”
Bambic said the duty of the council is to ensure the service to America by POW/MIA soldiers is, not only honored, but that “the citizens of this great country never forget POW/MIA cause.”
One of the four living POWs honored during the ceremony, Richard Anshus, 70, was accompanied by his wife Sylvia. A retired Lt. Colonel of the U.S. Army, Anshus served during the Cold War, Vietnam War and Grenada. He was captured in South Vietnam March 8, 1971, and released from captivity March 27, 1973, then hospitalized.
Also an honored POW who has attended the annual event for the last 20 years, Vernon L. Warren, 87, of St. Louis, Mo., is a retired sergeant U.S. Army serving in the 24th Infantry during the Korean War when he was captured on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 1950.
“As they say, I became a guest of the Chinese for 2 1/2 years...I spent a year in a hospital in Valley Forge before I was able to come home,” said Warren, who was held in a prisoner camp in Korea until April 1953.
In regard to the ceremony, Warren said, “I hope to make another one.”
Another WWII POW, Robert Teichgraber, 97, of Collinsville, thanked the attendees and veterans for their support and the honor at the close of the ceremony eliciting laughter with his claims, “I don’t think I’m tenacious anymore, but...I wanna thank the council and all the vets...for allowing us to be here, it’s been our privilege.”
He continued, “we get a little credit, (but) the credit belongs to the vets here — if it wasn’t for the vets here, this wouldn’t be anything.”
Teichgraber was captured in 1944 when his plane was shot down over Germany. He remained imprisoned for more than 400 days, but while he and others were forced to march across Poland, they made their escape.
“There are others, both military and civilians, who work hard, tirelessly to ensure each and every one of America’s missings and heroes is either set free or discovered and identified, then brought home,” Bambic said.
The Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agencies has been tasked with finding America’s heroes, Bambic said.
“Since last year’s ceremony the DPAA has discovered, identified and returned 194 fathers, brothers, uncles, have returned home after countless years — they’re home now,” he said.
Although there are over 82,000 still unaccounted for, Bambic said.
“This is still too many,” Bambic said. “We must never forget that. It shouldn’t be one day a year — we should strive as a free nation to bring and account for everybody.”
In the last six months, one of those discovered and returned home was U.S. Navy Seaman First Class Robert Monroe Temple.
He was 19 when he was stationed in Hawaii and aboard the USS Oklahoma naval ship when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor Dec. 7, 1941.
Temple’s nephew, John Temple, resident and senior Pastor of Faith Family Church in Shiloh, shared his family’s intimate story of loss and healing of 75 years.
Many attendees were observed shedding tears and sharing laughs during his speech.
The O’Fallon Township High School JROTC performed the POW/MIA Table Ceremony and led the Pledge of Allegiance. The Korean War Veterans Association did the Posting and Retrieval of Colors, and the 21-Gun Salute was carried out by the Polish American War Veterans.
More than 300 were in attendance with a barbeque following the ceremony.
At a glance
More than 82,000 U.S. military members are still unaccounted for. Here’s a breakdown:
- WWII: 73,121
- Korean War 7,729
- Cold War 126
- Southeast Asia 1,603
- Operation El Dorado Canyon 1
- Desert Storm 1
- Iraqi Freedom 1
- Operation Enduring Freedom 3