Return with Honor: 185th Commemorate the Loss of a Siouxland Hero

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Rich Murphy
  • 185th ARW PA
A week ago, the nation mourned the loss of one of its most distinguished military heroes, Col. George "Bud" Day. Across the country, friends, military members, and political leaders shared stories and memories of the most decorated military veteran since General MacArthur. The 185th Air Refueling Wing in Sioux City, Iowa, hosted a final farewell for this Sioux City native Saturday morning, celebrating Col. Day's life, accomplishments, and contributions to this nation.

Representative Steve King, U.S. House of Representative for Iowa's 4th Congressional district, spoke at the ceremony. "Col. Bud Day is still an inspiration to me. I am honored to have known him and to have been able to call him friend. I think the entire nation needs to know about Bud Day."

Col. Day was born and raised in Sioux City and attended Central High School. His second cousin, Geri Day spoke about growing up with Col. Day. "He would come out every summer to help out on the farm. You just knew, even at that young age, he was going to be something special."

Col. Day left high school early to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps. He served in World War II. After the war, he finished high school and earned degrees from Morningside College and the University of South Dakota.

He later earned his commission into the Iowa National Guard and after receiving pilot training, became a full time active duty pilot for the U.S. Air Force. He served in the Korean War and Vietnam.

Col. Day earned the Medal of Honor after he was shot down over North Vietnam and was held captive in a Hanoi prisoner of war camp. He was held captive in the "Hanoi Hilton" for five years and seven months. During his imprisonment, he served as an inspiration for many of his fellow Americans, including U.S. Senator John McCain.

After his time in the military, Col. Day became an important voice for veteran's benefits. Due to his leadership, the congress developed legislation introducing TriCare benefits for military veterans and their families. He also wrote an account of his military experiences in his book Return with Honor.

Col. Day's funeral was last Thursday in Pensacola Fla, where people from around the nation, inspired by Col. Day's life, came out to celebrate the life of this Siouxland native. Thousands of people lined Highway 98 while Col. Day's funeral procession to pay tribute to the national hero.

Chris McGowen, the president of the Siouxland Chamber of Congress and a guest speaker at the ceremony had the privilege of attending Col. Day's funeral. Fighting back tears, he said, "I think what moved me most while we were there, was seeing that Bud Day means as much to this nation as he does to us here in Siouxland."

The 185th ARW has plans to continue to honor Col. Day's memory by dedicating a bench in his honor next to the static display of an F-100. The same type of plane Col. Day flew during Vietnam.

Master Sgt. John Sandman, a member of the 185th and a key figure in the naming of the Bud Day Airfield, spoke about how Col. Day should serve as an inspiration to all future airmen. "We cannot be a Col. Bud Day, but we can emulate some of his best qualities."

Col. Brian Miller, commander of the 185th ARW, concluded the day's ceremony. He said, "Enough cannot be said about Col. Day. All I can add is that the world is a better place for having Bud Day in it."

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