PENSACOLA, Fla. (WALA) -
Thousands turned out Thursday, August 1 at the Emerald Coast Convention Center to remember and honor American hero Col. Bud Day .
Day served his country in the Air Force for nearly 35 years, fighting in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
He spent five and a half years of that as a POW in North Vietnam, treated to some of the worst conditions and abuse imaginable.
Sen. John McCain, who spent time as a POW beside Colonel Day, and numerous others recounted memories of the man who became America's most decorated living serviceman.
"There's nothing we can do to come close to repaying the courage and patriotism and distinguished service of Bud Day," said John Caruth, who attended the service.
Sandra Atkinson said Ret. Col. Day was inspiring.
"He was a shining example of a true American that put country above self," Atkinson said.
Ret. National Guard Chief Master Sgt. Brendan Birchard and Master Sgt. John Sandman were friends with Colonel Day for around 25 years.
"Col. Day is a genuine war hero. He was a smart guy, a tough guy and a leader. Those who flew with him can't say enough good things about him," said Sandman, "He had a hard life and suffered injuries that were with him his whole life. Still, he had enthusiasm for life and getting involved with things. He was a tremendous person to be around because everytime you were around him he made you feel like a better human being."
Ret. Chief Master Sgt. Birchard said he was thankful to know Ret. Col. Day.
"When he got out of bed in the morning for the last 30 or 40 years, that must've been a challenge from the brutality he experienced. When I have aches and pains, I have no right to complain. He's a complete role model for me and a lot of people in this country," Birchard said.
Flags flew at half staff and dozens gathered in silence.
While many remember Ret. Col. Day's service, personality and zest for life, it was his actions on behalf of other service members after he returned from overseas that equally stands out.
"Anybody who is in the military or will be owes him gratitude for his effort his work on the Tri-care health care system," Birchard said
Master Sgt. John Sandman said he'll miss Ret. Col. Day.
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