All-American heroes of the generation who fought Ho Chi Minh’s communist aggression in Southeast Asia are mourning the loss of one of their own: Col. George E. “Bud” Day, who passed away on Sunday.
Capt. Eugene “Red” McDaniel, who authored “Scars and Stripes” about being tortured by the North Vietnamese after his plane was shot down over the skies there, knows first-hand the type of distress Day endured.
“I never lived with Bud Day in captivity but he had an excellent reputation as a strong resister,” he said, in an understated fashion.
“After returning home in 1973 he played an active and leading role in the ‘tri-care for life’ health care issue. As an attorney he was very helpful to our group in dealing with disability issues. He will be missed by our group,” he said.
McDaniel’s faith in God provided an inspiration to his fellow captives who, like Day, experienced intense physical anguish and psychological torture.
Sen. John McCain, who was left with permanent injuries from his time as a POW during the Vietnam era, said in a statement, “Today brings the sad news that my dear friend and comrade, Colonel George E. ‘Bud’ Day, USAF (Ret.) has passed away. I owe my life to Bud, and much of what I know about character and patriotism. He was the bravest man I ever knew, and his fierce resistance and resolute leadership set the example for us in prison of how to return home with honor.”
Col, Leo Thorsness, who spent a year in solitary in “Camp Punishment” in Hanoi in a six-foot wide cell next to Day, wrote in “Surviving Hell,” “Bud Day [was] one of the toughest POWs in North Vietnam … His story had become something of a legend: shot down and captured, a daring escape soon after, and a desperate journey south to safety. He was shot and captured within sight of the American line and brought to Hanoi where his legend had grown by the maximum resistance he offered as a prisoner. Bud was the hardest of the hard men in the Hanoi Hilton … I felt lucky he was next door to me.”
Gen. Patrick Brady, another Medal of Honor recipient and author of “Dead Men Flying,” told WND that he knew of no tougher member of the military.
The other side of Day’s life was his extended effort to fight his own government when he returned to the states. The battle was over the military’s assurance that service members would have lifetime access to health care.
“I don’t think too many appreciate what Bud did in terms, for veterans, on that,” Brady said.
“They made that promise, then they broke it,” he said. “He (Day) took them on. He said at the end of the day, they said ‘We did make that promise, but guess what? We don’t have to keep it.’”
Day, who was honored with some 70 medals over his career, also earned recognition in Congress. U.S. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said America lost one of its living heroes.
“Col. Bud Day was America’s most decorated living hero,” said King. “Bud received the Medal of Honor and every available combat medal. Bud served through World War II, the Korean War, and Vietnam. He was a POW at the ‘Hanoi Hilton’ and a bunk mate of John McCain’s.”
According to King, Day survived a “no-chute bailout” from his jet, wounds and other harrowing escapes from death.
“Upon his release as a POW, Bud began a long career defending the interests of our veterans in court and in public life. Bud became a great friend of mine and many whom he inspired with his extraordinary human spirit and sense of humor,” said the congressman.
” I have had many occasions with Bud walking the hills of Iowa with shotgun in hand, watching the dogs and puffing feathers into the air. It was the idea and inspiration of Bud Day that brought tens of thousands of people to Washington, D.C. to surround the Capitol for the first time in history to ‘make a recommendation to the Congress.’
“It makes me so very, very sad to lose a man like Bud, no matter the years of life and service. But it’s now time to celebrate his life, pray for the Day family, and marvel that America can produce such giants. Col. Bud Day was America’s greatest living hero. He now joins the ranks of other giants in America’s history. Let history remember him and may our children learn to know his life.”
The funeral is scheduled Thursday. He will be buried at Barrancas National Cemetery at Naval Air Station Pensacola.