"Oh god it changed my life. Well for one thing I know what liberty and freedom mean now. Before that it was just a word everybody spoke and everybody took it for granted. And now every day I'm here I don't take it for granted. I realize what freedom really is," says Former POW Lt. Robert Pioli.
Lieutenant Robert Pioli was shot down over Germany in 1944. He was held captive for over a year in Moosberg during World War II.
On April 29th 1945 U.S. forces liberated him from that POW camp, a moment he says is the most memorable of his life. When people ask about his time as a POW he says there's no real explanation.
"Anybody in combat that's had bullets flying around them will never forget it. There isn't a day that goes by that doesn't remind me of those dark days in the '40s."
But this was a day of celebration. 68 years later he is surrounded by family and friends.
Congressman Bill Johnson had a special gift for this veteran. A flag that flew over the Capitol on March 26th of this year, his own way to thank Pioli for his service.
"These kinds of opportunities are rare when we have the chance to say thank you to the greatest generation. They led us through the Depression, World War II. They understand what freedom means and they understand that freedom is not free. They've paid the sacrifices to make sure that our generation gets to enjoy the fruits of our freedom and we have a great debt of gratitude to pay to them," says Congressman Johnson.
Mr. Pioli wasn't quite prepared to be in the spotlight and says the whole event was a little overwhelming.
"i don't quite know how to handle this. I've never had this happen before and it's quite impressive and I'm almost embarrassed," he says.
It's been 68 years and he's still humble about his sacrifice for our country.
Mr. Pioli always flys a flag at his home so he already has a place picked out to fly his new flag high.
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