Lackland Air Force Base, Texas –
Air Force Basic Military Training's BMT graduation parade at 9 a.m. Sept. 15
will honor American prisoners of war and missing in action for National POW/MIA
Brig. Gen. Darrell Jones, commander of the 37th Training Wing, will review the
parade, and standing beside him as an honorary reviewer will be a former POW,
retired Col. (Dr.) Joseph E. Milligan of San Antonio.
Four F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 149th Fighter Wing will perform a flyby and
"missing man" maneuver.
A highly decorated Air Force pilot, Dr. Milligan was shot down in an F-4C on his
113th combat mission on May 20, 1967, while engaged in a bombing raid on the Kep
railroad yards in North Vietnam. He spent nearly six years as a POW, being
released Feb. 18, 1973.
Former POWs are being invited to the parade, and at least 10 have confirmed they
will attend, said Senior Master Sgt. Jodie Cameron, 323rd Training Squadron
"Training certainly saved my life," Dr. Milligan said after noting that if he
were to address the graduating Airmen that day, he would tell them they "are
about to join the best-trained organization in the world."
Dr. Milligan also would tell the Airmen that, "Training is something you just
spent some intense weeks going through, and it doesn't stop there. You will be
in training the rest of your careers. Sometimes you tend to complain about all
the training and you'd rather just get on with the job, but sometimes it takes
an experience like mine to hit home that you can never have enough training."
When he was shot down by a MiG-17, Dr. Milligan said, he was very badly burned
on both arms. He was captured within an hour of ejecting from his burning F-4,
he said, but "didn't get any medical attention. And so I had to use what a lot
of people would consider some pretty crude methods to treat my wounds and
survive the whole situation."
The former POW said he used some of the things he learned in survivor's school,
including using maggots to cleanse the wounds on his arms.
"You never know what you learn that's going to be important to you sometime down
the road," he noted.
Dr. Milligan said he was held in a number of different prison camps in and
around Hanoi, including an old French prison dubbed with dark humor as the Hanoi
Despite his POW experience, he said, "If I had it to do all over again, I'd
raise my hand in a heartbeat" to join the Air Force.
He has talked several times to classes at Lackland's NCO Academy, and believes
that led to his being invited to be the honorary parade reviewer. "I consider
that a real honor," he said. "I am very pleased to participate in that."
The Air Force has "some very smart, extremely talented people in these young
recruit classes that are coming through," he said. "The older folks (he's 65)
sometimes are truly amazed by the younger generation and what they are able to
do, and their ability to multi-task, which seems to be the name of the game
today. We've got so many bells and whistles and new toys to play with that I
think it's exciting times in the Air Force."
Dr. Milligan was one of the original 12 F-4 Wild Weasel pilots that sought and
destroyed surface-to-air missile sites in Vietnam, although he was on a bombing
mission at the time he was shot down. He was a first lieutenant and copilot at
For action in Vietnam, Dr. Milligan was awarded the Silver Star Medal, Legion of
Merit, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, the Bronze Star with Valor, eight Air
Medals, POW Medal and two Purple Hearts.
Following repatriation, he received his Master of Science in Animal Science and
a Ph.D. in Nutrition from Rutgers University and his Doctor of Veterinary
Medicine from Cornel University.
He served as chief of environmental toxicology at the Occupational and
Environmental Health Laboratory, and chief of the Chemical Defense Division,
Aerospace Medical Division, both at Brooks AFB, from 1979-85. When he retired as
a colonel in 1988 after 24 1/2 years of service, he was director of Combat
Support, Air Force Systems Command, Andrews AFB, Md.
Dr. Milligan now is co-owner and executive vice president of Environmental
Decisions Inc., which provides consulting services to government and other
customers in life sciences, public health and occupational environmental health,
and environmental engineering.