FORT RUCKER, Ala. (WDHN) — Hundreds of area leaders, private citizens and military personnel gathered together at Veterans Park at Fort Rucker Friday morning to honor prisoners of war and to remember those who are still missing in action.
Daniel Stamaris served 14 years in the U.S. Army as a UH-60 Black Hawk crew chief. In 1991, he was held in Basra, Iraq, just outside of Baghdad for eight days as a POW.
“We were on a search-and-rescue mission looking for a downed F-16 pilot and started taking heavy enemy fire, and we were shot down,” Stamaris said. “I lost my whole crew.”
Despite being severely injured, Stamaris was the only survivor of his crew on that mission.
“I broke everything in my left lower leg,” he said. “My foot, my ankle, my femur was shattered. My pelvis was broken.”
Despite being a prisoner of war, Stamaris said he never lost hope.
“I didn’t know how long I was going to have to be held, but I never gave up that hope that sooner or later, you know, we would be released,” he said.
Stamaris recalls when he returned to U.S. soil for the first time.
“It was awesome,” he said. “I couldn’t do like a lot of the other guys because of how badly I was injured…A lot of them got down and kissed the ground, but I wasn’t able to do that simply because of my injuries, but I mean it was just awesome and I can’t really put it into words.
Stamaris is now a well-decorated veteran having earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, Bronze Star and Purple Heart to name a few.
Remembering veterans for their selfless service and the sacrifices they have endured to ensure our freedoms, it’s what’s good in the neighborhood this week.