A special ceremony today at the Governor's Residence in Lincoln marked the end of the Nebraska Department of American Ex-Prisoners of War (POW).

"Our prisoners of war have made great sacrifices and have earned a special place in the hearts of every American," said Lt. Governor Rick Sheehy. "We're here to honor all of them, and especially those who are here with us today, as we signal the end of this fine organization."

The Nebraska Department has a state organization and three chapters, one in Grand Island, Lincoln and Omaha. The organization was open to former prisoners of any war, military and civilian, and their family members, including a spouse, children, parents, siblings and grandchildren over the age 18.

"I am proud to recognize the contributions made by former military and civilian POWs and their families, who helped so many victims deal with the enduring trauma of their capture," said Dennis L Pavlik, Commander of the Nebraska Department of American Ex-Prisoners of War. "The friendships developed with ex-prisoners of war who shared a common experience have become lasting, life-long relationships."

The organization's membership has continued to decline over the past few years.

"We will forever recognize the sacrifice of our American Ex-POWs," said John Hilgert, director of the Nebraska Department of Veterans' Affairs. "Their ordeal teaches us the value of liberty and freedom, for there can be no better teachers of freedom than those whose freedom has been denied."

The national organization began as the Bataan Relief Organization in 1942. Members gathered information about prisoners of war and exchanged it with others prisoners' families. In 1946 the name was changed to the Bataan Veterans' Organization. Changing the name to American Ex-Prisoners of War in 1949 welcomed and included former military and civil POWs from all wars.

Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services

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