In January 1951, a year after being deployed to Korea with the first wave of infantrymen, Chinese forces captured William Allen. He and other POWs marched for two months to the Manchurian border, freezing without winter clothing. They released Allen from their camp in a trade after 31 months.
He's still managing his post-traumatic stress (he won't use the word "disorder") and advocating on behalf of other POWs and MIA soldiers. For the veteran, 82, accepting a medal from Governor Rick Scott wasn't about himself or his experiences. It was about remembering his fellow POWs who couldn't be there.
"You play the cards you're dealt," he said. "I don't want to make a big deal of it myself."
Scott honored Allen and 285 other Tampa Bay veterans and current service members with Governor's Veterans Service awards Thursday morning at Congressman C.W. Bill Young Armed Forces Reserve Center in Pinellas Park.
The event, one of many across the state open to all veterans with discharge papers and current armed forces members, comes after Scott's March 14 executive order to recognize Florida veterans.
"We don't just wait for the holidays to thank our veteran men and women," said Scott, himself a Navy veteran who served in the '70s. "I remember what it was like back then when you got out. No one thanked you."
The governor awarded medals, shook hands and posed for photos for nearly two hours.
After the event, Scott answered reporters' questions for two minutes, taking four questions.
Scott didn't answer Buzz's questions about whether he would sign the warning shots bill and an abortion bill that would prohibit the procedure past the point of viability, saying he hasn't yet reviewed the legislation.
"I haven't had the opportunity to review it yet, but I clearly believe in the 2nd Amendment and public safety," he said of the warning shots bill. "We're at a 42-year low in our crime rate right now in the state. We made a lot of progress with regard to law enforcement. I want to thank all of our law enforcement for this 42-year low in our crime rate. Sheriffs, police chiefs, Department of Corrections, we're headed in the right direction."