POW/MIA Recognition Day and the Life of an American Hero, Fred Jossi
National POW/MIA Recognition Day and the Life of an American Hero – Fred Jossi
National POW/MIA Recognition Day was established by Congress in 1979. It is observed on the 3rd Friday in September to recognize and honor those that were Prisoners of War (POW) or those who are still Missing in Action (MIA). It is a day to remember the great sacrifices many made to maintain our freedoms as Americans and to remember that some are still missing.
According to POW-MIAFamilies.org:
As of July 15, 2020
THE NUMBER OF AMERICANS MISSING AND
UNACCOUNTED-FOR FROM THE VIETNAM WAR WAS AND STILL IS 1,586
A Remembrance and Personal Account of Fred Jossi
Fred Jossi was a POW of WWII and my grandfather. He never spoke about the war to me until my husband joined the Air Force. He wanted to share his story, so I knew how to help my husband if he ever suffered from PTSD. My grandfather was an extraordinary man who struggled through the effects of being a Prisoner of War but loved his family greatly. He will always remain my hero. On June 25, 2020, my grandfather passed away, I’d like to tell you his story.
The Capture of Fred Jossi
My grandfather was serving as an Army Scout for the 168th Regiment when he was captured at Fiad Pass by Rommel. He was met with a German tank while scouting a country road and was forced to surrender. He told us his regiment had many casualties. Those that survived along with my grandfather were held in Africa for a short time, before being flown to Italy where they were then transported to Germany. Germany is where he spent the rest of his time as a POW working 10-hour days, barely being fed, and beaten constantly. His time as a POW lasted over 2 years.
Escape to Freedom
My grandfather escaped in April 1945. He figured he would soon die when he discovered they would be marching to Berlin where the American prisoners would be used as a protective shield against the Americans. He wasn’t going to stick around to be killed, so he and two other men escaped. My grandfather and another brave soldier jumped over a bridge and hid in a ditch to avoid dedication, sadly one man was recaptured. A few days later they were rescued when they came across an American tank that would lead them to safety.
Life After Capture
Life after capture was not easy. Luckily, he married my grandmother Mary, who was a force to be reckoned with and held the family together. My grandfather had a hard time holding a job after the war and would later learn he suffered from PTSD. My grandparents had 6 children and raised them as best they could with little money. His passion for serving other veterans and playing golf carried him through the tough times. His passion for golf was the only consistent source of income for him. He owned a driving range and then later started a business selling golf balls.
Serving Veterans and Military Spouses
In 1974 my grandfather learned of a POW organization that provided benefits to ex-POWs. He filed a claim and would spend over three years advocating for compensation and benefits owed to ex-POWs and military spouses living in Oregon. This led to him volunteering as the Veteran Affairs (VA) National Service Officer for ex-POWs and Vietnam Veterans in Southeast Portland. He played a large role in Oregon officially celebrating POW/MIA Recognition Day as well as making sure ex-POWs received Purple Hearts that were awarded to them during the war – a process that spanned many years. He loved serving and would develop monthly bulletins for Oregon’s VA chapter and would hold banquets for POWs, which was just an excuse for him to dance.
Golfing for Veterans In Need
Perhaps his most favorite way to give back was through golf, so he started the Fred Jossi Invitational Golf Tournament. This tournament is funded by the participants through entry fees and hole sponsors. He donated money each year for prizes. Tournament sponsors include the American Legion and the American Legion Riders Post 180, Milwaukie, Oregon.
Knowing he would not make the next tournament he instructed the organizers to add a women’s top team trophy and an overall worst team trophy. It is part of his legacy and a way he can continue to give back to his veteran community. The tournament has been renamed the Fred Jossi Memorial POW/MIA Open in honor of his life.
His loss was greatly felt by my family. He was the strength that drove us and the voice encouraging us to do better and be better for veterans and our communities. His legacy has taught me that there is always a way to serve others, find your purpose, and never give up. Fred Jossi was awarded the Bronze Star, Combat Infantry Badge, POW Medal, Expert Submachine Gunner Medal, Honorable Service while a POW, and most importantly was my grandfather.
“You Are Not Forgotten”
We honor those who were held captive and returned, as well as those who remain missing.
For more info, please visit the following sites:
(Featured image by Christopher Dewitt, US Air Force and courtesy of DVIDSHub.net)
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About the author
Lori Waddell serves as Co-director of an emergency response COAD in Montana, a freelance writer, and an Air Force Key Spouse. She is passionate about empowering communities and individuals through knowledge and resources. She currently lives in Montana with her husband and two children.