Robert E. Mitchell Center Supports Former POWs Year-Round

Story Number: NNS110908-24Release Date: 9/8/2011 4:13:00 PM
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From Navy Medicine Support Command Public Affairs

PENSACOLA, Fla. (NNS) -- Medical professionals at the world's only center for the long-term study of the Prisoner of War (POW) experience are scheduled to recognize Pensacola-area former POWs during a Sept. 16 luncheon at the Heritage Hall in Pensacola, Fla.

Retired Navy Capt. Allen Brady is scheduled as one of the honorees during the 13th annual Pensacola-area POW/Missing in Action (MIA) luncheon, sponsored by the Pensacola Chapter of Freedoms Foundation at Valley Forge, the Pensacola Chapter of the Navy League and Navy Federal Credit Union.

According to retired Capt. Robert E. Hain, executive director of the Navy Operational Medical Institute's (NOMI) Robert E. Mitchell Center for Prisoner of War Studies, although National POW/MIA day is observed annually Sept. 16 in the United States, remembering the sacrifice these men and women have made is paramount.

"Remembering the sacrifice these service members have made is with us on a daily basis," he said. "So many have suffered terribly. They are our true heroes."

Brady, who spent 74 months incarcerated during the Vietnam War, ejected from an A-6 medium attack bomber at a speed of more than 450 knots in January 1967, suffering multiple injuries. While incarcerated, he was exposed to lengthy torture sessions and suffered from multiple untreated diseases. Hain said Brady's will and devotion to duty proved instrumental in his survival.

"Still today, [Brady] is grateful that he was able to serve his country with honor and dignity," Hain said, "a country he knew - in his darkest hours in a bare basement cell - would never forget him."

The Mitchell Center is dedicated to documenting and determining long-term effects of war-time incarceration on U.S. military, civilian and contracted U.S. employees spanning nearly 40 years. It is the sole U.S. facility designed for this sort of evaluation, something Hain said pays dividends not only to the patients seen, but for current and future generations of service members.

"A question that constantly is on our collective minds deals with the fact that so many of our people went through a truly terrible experience but emerged at the other end a better, stronger person," Hain said. "Answers to this question of why ultimately helps us contribute to the body of knowledge that prepares present day fighters to be deployed to a war zone."

The Mitchell Center is named for retired Capt. Robert E. Mitchell, a Medical Corps Officer whose final assignment was as commanding officer of The Naval Aerospace Medical Research Laboratory. It was during this tour that he pioneered studies of repatriated Vietnam Prisoners of War and created the only surviving component of the original tri-service Center for POW Studies established in 1972. Air Force and Army programs were discontinued in 1978, and today the Mitchell Center consults and offers services to individuals from all branches of military service, including all 21 former POWs from the Gulf War and eight former POWs from Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The center provides unique services to former POWs and their families. This includes an Annual Extensive Evaluation that includes both physical and psychological evaluations, something Hain says is designed to ensure individuals using the Mitchell Center's services receive the most appropriate care at a time in their lives when they may not pay sufficient attention to their aches and pains.

Hain also said that along with the benefits of the Mitchell Center's research in assisting the nearly 600 former POWs using the facility annually, the lessons learned from voluntary participation of former POWs has directly impacted the Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape courses taught to U.S. service members.

The Mitchell Center's research has also developed information used by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for presumptive diagnoses, aided in research in understanding disease processes and a continued improvement to the repatriation process.

Future Mitchell Center undertakings include studies on bone density, premature aging, prostatic cancer and epidemiology in POWs, Hain said.

From research and patient care to attending luncheons in honor of former POWs, Hain said Mitchell Center staff consider it a privilege and honor to support these American heroes.

"What we do today - from the support and care the Mitchell Center provides to participating in functions designed to honor these men and women who have endured so much - is an honor," he said. "I'm proud to have the opportunity to see and evaluate these individuals and participate in the program."

The Robert E. Mitchell Center for Prisoner of War Studies is designated under the Naval Operational Medical Institute, which operates under the aegis of Navy Medicine Support Command, headquartered in Jacksonville, Fla.

NMSC provides a single point of accountability for all support services within Navy Medicine and exercises command and control and financial management oversight over subordinate commands and ensures the economical and effective delivery of Navy Medicine enterprise-wide support services.

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