Posted by: bree1972 | March 8, 2010

The Loss of Freedom 03/09/2010

When Ted mentioned several weeks ago we should ride over to Andersonville so I could write a story on the National Historic Site there, I admit to wondering if that was a story I really wanted to tell.  We live, as the crow flies, no more than 30 miles from this infamous Civil War prison, and I have heard about Andersonville – the historic prison and the National Cemetery – my whole life and have visited there many times.  In 1998 the Prisoner of War Museum became the third feature of the site, and Ted and I toured it several years ago.  The prison and the POW museum are testaments to just how horribly humans can treat other humans.  The cemetery is a quiet place of honor where veterans of military service may still be interred.

The weather was beautiful on Sunday – blue skies, warm enough that only light jackets were needed, the hint of spring in the air.  We picked up Dawn and Stevie a little after lunch and were in the National Park within 30 minutes.  We toured the entire facility, and I’ve decided to write about the newest feature first – the Prisoner of War Museum.  Tomorrow I’ll cover Andersonville – the prison, and the National Cemetery.

Andersonville National Historic Site is the only National Park System area to serve as a memorial to all American prisoners of war.  When Congress asked for the museum to be built, it stated that its purpose was “to provide an understanding of the overall prisoner of war story of the Civil War, to interpret the role of prisoner of war camps in history, to commemorate the sacrifice of Americans who lost their lives in such camps, and to preserve the monuments located within the site”.

From the brochure, Andersonville:  “Capture as a prisoner of war often comes as a complete surprise and is frequently accompanied by injury  Internment is a physical and emotional ordeal that is all too often fatal.  American prisoners of war, throughout history, have confronted varying conditions and treatment.  Sometimes conditions are dictated by climate and geography; sometimes treatment is dictated by something as simple as the whim of an individual  captor.  International rules require that prisoners of war be treated humanely.  But history has taught us that the interpretation of those rules vary with different cultures and nations.

In every war, American prisoners of war have suffered and seen fellow captives die from disease, starvation, exposure, lack of medical care, forced marches, and outright murder.  They have been victims of war crimes such as torture, mutilation, beatings, and forced labor under inhumane conditions.  But at times they have suffered simply because their captors were not adequately prepared to care for them.”

The photographs taken Sunday afternoon inside the museum and on the museum grounds do not even begin to tell the full story of this beautiful  facility.  I only hope to tweak your interest in coming for a visit.

The National Prisoner of War Museum is located inside the Andersonville National Historic Site at Andersonville, GA.


Dawn and I both could remember wearing POW bracelets engraved with the name of a serviceperson known to be missing in action or presumed to be a prisoner of war.


Army flight surgeon Major Rhonda Cornum was wearing this flight suit when her rescue helicopter was shot down during the Persian War in 1991. She was held as a POW for eight days with two broken arms and a dislocated knee.


When you walk into this exhibit, the room is dark. Then moving spotlights strob across a wall of guns aimed toward you. It portrays very realistically what it must feel like to be captured at night.


In one large room, every wall is covered in letters that were written either by POW's while they were in captivity, or by family members, hoping the letters would reach missing soldiers.


. . . . a letter from a father to his missing son.

A poem, written in a notebook by a soldier in a Japanese prison camp, chronicles the rumors that circulated through the camp regularly.


The most poignant exhibit to me was this vast wall of memories. Dozens of video tapes of wives, husbands, fathers, mothers, and children tell of their lives as they waited for word of their missing loved one.


A cage used in Vietnam to hold American prisoners of war.

A glimpse inside a POW "cell" in Vietnam.

Vietnamese rules for American prisoners of ar.

In the Andersonville prison, less than one percent of Union prisoners of war made successful escapes, although many tried and failed. Prisoners worked on tunnels almost constantly, but most either caved in or were tipped off to Confederate guards. Most of the one percent who escaped did so by walking away from work details.

A wall-sized photograph of liberated prisoners of war at the end of World War II.

The dramatic wall and sculpture in the museum courtyard is by Donna L. Dobberfuhl. It is entitled "The Price of Freedom Fully Paid", and it is a work of art that beckons you to walk around it - to see it from every angle, to look into this man's face.



The Prisoner of War Museum at Andersonville tells a story of sacrifice and courage, and you can truly spend hours within its walls if you look at the art, watch the video presentations, and study every exhibit, document, and photograph.  If you come for a visit, I encourage you to do just that.  You will come away saddened, but you will also come away filled with a sense of gratitude and almost reverence for what our captured military personnel have endured, and in so many cases survived and triumphed over. 

Some Americans have experienced the prisoner of war ordeal for a few days, others for years – but all have experienced the loss of freedom. The most important story told at Andersonville is that this loss of freedom makes us cherish freedom even more.

“None who have always been free can understand the terrible fascinating power of the hope of freedom to those who are not free.” . . . Pearl S. Buck



  1. I too remember having a POW bracelet, I don’t remember what happened to it. I’m at a loss for words, and the only think I can think of is WOW! What a story. How sad it must be to walk thru there and I don’t know if I could do it without crying. The pictures are amazing yet so..for lack of better word..sad. Thank you for sharing Brenda.

    • It’s a hard story to write, Hilde. And tomorrow’s will be even harder.

  2. I also proudly wore a POW bracelet in support of a missing solider. I can remember the name on it today as if it were still on my wrist: Airforce Capt. Jose David Luna. He was shot down in 1967, in North Vietnam..and was released from being a POW captive in 1973.

    What a humbling place you have shown us today Brenda.. it reminds us in a mighty powerful way what a deep, deep debt of gratitude we owe to our soliders past & present.

    Jane in Minnesota

    • i too wore a POW braclet with David Luna’s name on it…dont know what happened to the braclet but will never forget his name

      • I also wore a POW braclet with Jose David Luna’s name on it. The braclet ultimately broke, but the name will never be forgotten. I looked for the name years later on the Vietnam Memorial Wall and was relieved to see that it was not there. I’m glad to get additional confirmation that he came home, but ever mindful of the long list of names of others who did not come home.

      • Capt. David Luna is my Mom’s cousin. Thank you for wearing his bracelet!

    • Capt David Luna is my mom’s cousin. Thank you for wearing his bracelet!

      • I am writing on Captian Luna. Is there anyway I could contact you.

      • My email address is

      • I, also, have a bracelet with Capt. Jose David Luna. Is there any way to contact him?

      • Cindee, I don’t know if you’ll get this or not since your post was in 2010, but I also wore Jose David Luna’s bracelet. I went to Travis when he came back to the US and I ran out to the place and handed him the bracelet when he got off the plane. Hopefully he still has it.

    • I, too, wore Capt. Jose David Luna’s POW bracelet and watched on TV as he stepped off the airplane onto safe American soil. Today, I am a proud Military Mom with a son who has served twice in Iraq and proud to say he has made it home safely each time.

    • I would like to add my name to the list of those who proudly wore the POW bracelet with Capt. Jose David Luna’s name on it. As I was watching the news this evening there was a story of a woman who has worn a POW bracelet of a green barret named James Moreland since she got it at 12 yrs old and is now 50. His remains were recently found and he is coming home.
      As I listened to this story I remembered watching TV and seeing Capt. Luna step off the plane. I still have the bracelet!

      • Thanks so much for writing, JoAnn.

      • When you watched Jose David Luna get off the plane, did you watch the kid run out to him and give him the bracelet? That was me.

    • I, too, wore Jose David Luna’s bracelet – I believe I still have it in a box in my room

  3. To think how much we all owe those who protect us is truly overwhelming. This it a powerful and moving tribute to all who have given up their lives and their freedom for us and you captured it masterfully. My reaction to this was the same as at the Vietnam Wall in Washington. I hope every schoolchild in Georgia sees this so they can understand that while “all gave some, some gave all”.

  4. What a moving place. Your POW bracelet picture reminded me of my POW from the Irag war. We had decided at school (staff) to pick one of the 7 captured and have bracelets made. I chose Lori Ann Piestewa. She was found dead before I ever got my bracelet. To this day I have a clipping about her hanging next to my computer to remind me of what she gave for all of us. Thank you for sharing this with us.

  5. Sorry on the spelling of Iraq.

  6. I also have a POW bracelet and still wear it to this day. My friend brought it back to me after she finished Army basic training in 1991. His name is Donald Wann, he is from Shawnee, OK and went missing in South Vietnam June 1, 1971 – 2 months and 2 years before I was born. His helicopter was shot down and crashed into the side of a mountain…not a POW but they still haven’t been able to bring his remains home. I was in contact with his daughter for a while and she sent me one of the bracelets that she had made with her dad’s picture on it. This museum would be amazing to visit and would be incredibly moving…

    As always, thank you for this awesome post.

    • Hello,
      I read your post on I just want to tell you if you don’t already know Donald Wann was returned to his family on the 18th of this month and he was put to rest on the 21st. I was to most amazing event I have ever been a part of. I hope you get this and feel free to contact me at
      Rolling Thunder Oklahoma 3

  7. My great grandfather was an Andersonville prisoner in the Civil War. He lived because the war ended and he was sent to Annapolis, MD., to the hospital before being sent home. He was one of the lucky ones but his health was ruined for the rest of his life. His name is registered at Andersonville.
    My Kentucky cousin is remembered in the Prisoner of War Museum for being a prisoner of the Japanese in the Philippines in WWII. He died while on one of the Hell Ships being transported to the Japanese salt mines.
    Two young men from Kentucky, widely separated by years, but willing to go when needed.

  8. I too wore Capt. Jose David Luna’s POW bracelet for years as a kid, when we were stationed in the Panama Canal Zone. I’m glad to know he came home safely! My parents probably still have that bracelet somewhere…

  9. With the 10th anniversary of the 911 tragedy – I was talking with a girl at work about how we watched the different programs recapping the attacks saying how we spent most of the day crying. Somehow we started talking about war in general and I mentioned when I was a little girl I wore a POW bracelet and I told her the name on my bracelet (Jose David Luna). She was amazed that after all these years I still remember his name.. I told her I would never forget it. I remember I would constantly rub my fingers over the name and prayed for his safe return. I can’t believe it’s still legible. It wasn’t until recently that I found the website stating he had been released and returned home. I was so very happy. This website also gave instructions on how to mail the bracelet back to the serviceman and his family. I hope the Luna family would forgive me but I would like to keep the bracelet. It was such a big part of my young life that I would miss not being able to rub my fingers over the name and say a prayer now and again.

    • He would love for you to keep it and remember there are still prisoners of war in many countries.
      Thank you for wearing his bracelet ( He is my Mom’s cousin) and for remembering him all these years! He is alive and well.

      • I also wore Jose David Luna’s POW bracelet as a teeenager many yeears ago, and although it broke in half, I still have it. I knew that he had retrned home, although I did not see it on television…would have liked to as I wore the bracelet for several years. Although it’s over thirty years ago, and I have trouble remembering the simplest things, I’ll always remember his name and what he went hear about others’ memories!

  10. Sorry about the last sentence…was supposed to say I’ll always remember his name and what he went through for his country!

  11. My parents got me 2 of the pow bracelets when I was young. I prayed every night for my men. I have my 2 bracelets to this very day. I just found that one of the pow’s that I have came home in 1973 and lives in Maryland with his wife. I would sure love to meet him or even talk with him.

  12. Captain Jose David Luna is one of the bracelets that I have and Lt. Larry Stevens is the other.

  13. I also wore a bracelet for Capt. David Luna. When he was released I was able to return the bracelet to him and tell him what a moving experience it was to wear it and pray for him when he was a captive. I received a letter from him thanking me for wearing the bracelet. My father was a German prisoner of war from 6/14/1944 to 4/29/1945. He was imprisoned at Stalag III. I still have the censored letters he was able to send to my mom.

  14. WOW! I thought I was the only one that wore the POW bracelet with the name of Capt. Jose David Luna. So glad to see that many others also wore that name, so many more prayers for him during that time. I too remember seeing him come home on the news. I vividly remember calling to my dad….”Daddy, that’s my guy! He’s home!” I’m so glad he’s safe and sound, with his family in Maryland. My son is now in the Coast Guard Reserves. Both of these guys are MY heroes!

    • Thank you for this touching story. David is alive and well!
      You may reach me via email at

  15. You may each contact me via email at regarding David Luna. Again, a huge Thank You! For wearing my cousin’s bracelet. Never forget! There are still POW’s!

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