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Veterans Remember Prisoners of War
Every year, veterans from across the state come to the capital city, paying their respects to fallen soldiers. They set up a 24-hour vigil at the Illinois Vietnam Veterans Memorial, which was dedicated back in 1988.
For 24 hours, veterans and volunteers marched around the memorial to honor those who sacrificed their lives for our country. The vets held different ceremonies throughout the weekend, including a touching vigil for prisoners of war.
"It's important to remember what some people sacrificed," ex-prisoner of war Gary Sigler said.
An Air Force vet, Sigler survived living as a prisoner of war for six years. He describes conditions as something no one should ever experience.
"We weren't fed very well," he said. "All of us lost weight, all of us had intestinal worms and things, and all of us were beaten."
During Saturday's vigil, 64 prisoners of war were named. Dog tags dropped into a helmet, symbolizing each Illinois soldier still missing in action.
"I feel very sorry for them and their families," Sigler said. "I don't know what happened to them, but I know how much people hurt because of it."
"We can walk in the rain," Harley Motorcycle Club President Jeff Roberts said. "They fought in the rain, so we can walk in the rain."
Roberts is dedicating some of his time to honor Vietnam vets. He and dozens of volunteers are walking around the memorial.
Roberts was never a part of the Army, but something still draws him to remember those who fought for our country.
"One of the guys who's walking with us today, Pat Aches, his brother is on the wall," Roberts said. "We're walking for John Aches."
John Aches died in the war, but many survived and are telling their story. Sigler proudly wears a purple heart medal.
He said it was only by the grace of God he survived the Vietnam experience.
"Faith, and I mean faith in your country, faith in your fellow man, faith in your family, faith in God," Sigler said.
Another reason Sigler never gave up was because his cellmate spent nine years as a prisoner of war. He figured if that man survived for so long, then he had no excuse.
Sigler things his actions were not notable enough to make him a hero.