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A hero’s story: Prisoner of War at 16

Veo Jessie joined the military looking for answers and ended it as a Prisoner of War (POW) survivor.

Jessie decided at the age of 15 to join the military to uncover the truth about how his brother, a serviceman, had died.

After telling the recruiter he was 17, he began his journey as a soldier. Born in Corsicana, Texas, Jessie and his brother were the only two children and they were very close.

“I thought I’d be going around the United States meeting people that may have met my brother, but the next thing I knew I was on a plane headed to Korea,” he said. In June 1953, his third month on the ground in Korea, age 16, he was wounded.

“We had personal first aid kits that held a box of matches, a needle and thread, and a few other items. I just stitched up my wound and kept moving,” Jesse said.

“I knew in my heart I was going to make it back home.”

While going through one of the many destroyed villages, Jessie met a young Korean boy who lost all his family. “I felt bad for him, so we worked together to keep one another alive. Shortly later I was captured and taken to Pork Chop Hill,” he recalled.

Total U.S. casualties at Pork Chop Hill numbered 243 killed, 916 wounded and nine captured. Less than three weeks after the Battle of Pork Chop Hill, the Korean Armistice Agreement was signed to end hostilities.

For three months as POW, Jessie was tortured, interrogated, endured sleep and food deprivation, and was kept in solitary confinement.

“Even though I saw a lot of others lose their lives, I knew in my heart I was going to make it back home. It was a glorious day when I saw U.S. troops coming to my rescue,” he shared.

Returning home

Jessie was awarded numerous medals, including the Purple Heart and several Bronze Star Medals for his courage and experiences as a soldier and POW. Although he never found out how his brother died, he shared, “My life was spared and I continue to live everyday with joy in my heart.”

As a long-time patient of North Texas VA, Jessie is one of 220,000 enrolled North Texas Veterans who trust VA with their health care.

“Veterans like Jessie truly gives us a special reason to do what we do,” said Chief of Staff Dr. Jeffrey Hastings. “It’s important we recognize there are families whose loved ones are still missing in action and we extend support to them as well.”

Jessie and Hastings are pictured above. For resources and FAQs for families and others still missing loved ones, visit Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (DPAA).

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