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Former Iranian hostage speaks of patriotism

By Greg Gelpi

With military rifles aimed at him and 10 others, retired U.S. Army Col. Charles W. "Chuck" Scott stood as his Iranian captors shouted firing commands which was "no less than 30 minutes, but seemed like forever."

"When I stood there I realized I was in the best company," Scott said. "We knew we had won the day because we hadn't given our Iranian captors one last spectacle which to gloat."

Scott was held hostage in Iran from Nov. 4, 1979 to Jan. 20, 1981. After one month of torture, he was placed into solitary confinement for a year, he said.

Scott recounted his ordeals as a hostage and spoke of his pride of his military experiences and his patriotism for his country. He joined other veterans who observed Armed Forces Day Saturday at North Mt. Carmel Park in Hampton.

Veterans, politicians and members of the community capped the ceremony of memories and music with a walk through the park's quarter mile Walking Trail of Honor.

Observers paused at the end of the trail at a memorial, lined with bricks with the names of local veterans.

"It's easy to be a patriot on the Fourth of July when the flags are waving and a parade is rolling by, but it's much more difficult when you're hanging by a steel cable and being beaten," Scott said.

The actions American soldiers allegedly committed against Iraqi prisoners in recent months is "minimal" compared to what he and his fellow hostages endured, Scott said.

"What our soldiers have been accused of doing in Baghdad I would have to classify as minimal," Scott said.

G. Lamar Russell, a veteran of the U.S. Army, guarded German prisoners of war during World War II.

"There's a slip in command that could create such a disturbance," Russell said.

The war in Iraq is something the country must finish now that it has begun, the McDonough resident said.

The ceremony stirred memories of Clifford Radcliffe's more than 21 years in the Army, serving in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

Radcliffe, also a McDonough resident, said his thoughts turned to what more he could have done for his country.

With the nation at war, Scott said he was disappointed with the sparse turnout at the holiday observance.

"You know it's a shame that I see a few veterans and politicians and we're in the middle of a war," Scott said.

He recalled the attack on Pearl Harbor preceding World War II and how his neighborhood was empty the next day as people streamed to recruiting offices to enlist in the military. Wartime unites nations and bonds all branches of the military.

He said the government has sought the answer as to why some flee in times of war, while others step up to serve in the military. The answer, Scott said, is a patriotism and a dedication beyond words.

For more information on purchasing a brick on the Walking Trail of Honor, call (770) 898-4293.