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      Veterans Affairs hosts former POW Luncheon

      Not many 18 year olds expect to celebrate their 18th birthday as a prisoner of war, but for retired Sergeant First Class, Richard Stoops, he had no choice.

      "1951 we were on a hill for 526 and I was wounded there and taken to an aid station and it was overrun by communists."

      The Veterans Affairs honored a group of former POWs at a luncheon and Stoops was one of those who were honored.

      Stoops enlisted in the military in May 1951. One month later he found himself in the middle of the Korean War. Today he found himself surrounded by other surviving POWs at the VA hospital.

      Clinical Psychologist Paul Whittaker said, "It means a lot because they get to see each other. Some are spread all across the Panhandle, but it reminds them and us how much we care about their services."

      Fewer than 2,300 former POWs remain today, most of whom were part of the U.S. Army or Air Force. The VA hospital holds meetings and luncheons twice a year for former POWs.

      "They have top priority whenever there's a medical need or some kind of benefit issue, they're actually at the top of the list."

      But today, it was nothing more than chit-chat and a warm meal.

      "It's good to see if they're doing alright. Of course I never ask where they were at...they tell their own story."

      Stoops will also leave Amarillo Wednesday morning on the honor flight to visit the Korean memorial in Washington, D.C., with his daughter.