In 1944, Robert Teichgraber was in a bomber over Germany when it was shot down.
“One day we didn’t have any fighter protection,” said Teichegraber, a 96-year-old World War II veteran.
Eventually, the Army Air Corps staff sergeant was taken prisoner, and was held captive for more than 400 days. He eventually escaped along with fellow servicemen during a forced march across Poland.
Teichegraber was among those honored during the Scott POW/MIA Council’s 25th annual recognition ceremony Saturday in O’Fallon. He said he is an annual participant, and has been to each of the ceremonies.
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“They make you feel special for a day,” said Teichgraber, a Collinsville resident.
The event, at the O’Fallon Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 805, included the Korean War Veterans Association, Cub Scout Pack 9, a rendition of Amazing Grace on the bagpipes, the playing of Taps, a rifle salute by the Polish American War Veterans and the medley of the service songs.
At the ceremony, organizers honored six former POWs and family members of those who are still missing in action.
“You are the true example for our armed forces anywhere,” said Geoff Bambic, the event emcee, and member of the Scott POW/MIA Council. “Every American owes their freedom to all of you.”
Through this week, there are more than 82,600 American servicemen who are still listed as missing in action, dating back to World War II, according to the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency.
“This is too many,” Bambic said. “The council will be here, the veterans groups will be here. American citizens will know, until we’re not needed.”
The role of the council is to honor former prisoners of war and to educate people that servicemen are still missing.
“It’s special that I’m allowed to be here,” Bambic said. “I wish I wasn’t. I wish I didn’t have to. I wish we were talking about something that was in the past. That’s never going to happen again.”