When Bill Freeman was held prisoner during the Korean War, one of his greatest joys was getting letters from home, and now he’s asking for more.
While serving in the Army, Freeman was held captive at a North Korea prison camp for 2 1/2 years. After his capture, he was forced on a three-week march to the prison camp, and many of the weary American soldiers died on the way. More died in the prison camp, where food was scarce and temperatures were frigid.
He spoke about the experience in 2018 at a dedication of a POW/MIA memorial at the Houston County Courthouse.
“Ladies and gentleman, you don’t know the atrocities that went on during the Korean War,” he said. “It was something that’s hard to believe.”
Now the 90-year-old is a resident of Carl Vinson VA Medical Center nursing home in Dublin. He is losing his eyesight and is legally blind.
The Purple Heart recipient said he has been treated well since his move from Macon. But his biggest loss is his dog of 15 years, Casper, who couldn’t go with him.
To help lift his spirits, fellow members of a veterans group had an idea: Ask people to write him letters.
Freeman has long been involved with the local chapter of Rolling Thunder, a group that raises awareness for prisoners of war and those missing in action. Spokeswoman Rita Starnes-Tinney said group members thought it could be a good idea to start a letter-writing campaign.
“We want to flood him with letters, just to say ‘Thank you for your service,’ ” Starnes-Tinney said.
In a phone interview with The Telegraph on Wednesday, Freeman said the letters would mean a lot to him, just as it did when he got letters as a prisoner of war.
He remembers that he got 105 letters in Korea, but after his release, his captors only let him take two, which were from his sisters. He still has them.
“It was a lifeline,” he said of the letters he got during the war. “Most of the time they were six to eight months old, but old news is still good news.”
He now has a machine that will read the letters for him, but the letters must be typewritten.
Freeman pushed for the POW/MIA monument in Macon, which was unveiled in 2009 at Macon Memorial Park, because he said he wanted to honor those who didn’t make it out.
Starnes-Tinney has worked closely with Freeman for years on POW/MIA awareness. She became emotional when asked to describe him.
“There’s not enough you can say about him,” she said. “He’s a very selfless individual. He will give you his heart. He will give you the shirt off his back. He loves America, and he is very passionate about the POW/MIA mission.”
Letters to him should be addressed to: William D. Freeman, 8A East Cardinal Circle, 1826 Veterans Blvd., Dublin, Ga., 31021.
Freeman also hopes to have a visit from Casper on Friday.