Society honors Airmen who escaped, evaded capture

  • Published
  • By Roger Drinnon
  • Air Mobility Command Public Affairs
The commander of Air Mobility Command honored the Air Forces Escape and Evasion Society with a ceremony here May 4 as part of the group's 2007 reunion.

Gen. Duncan J. McNabb paid tribute to AFEES, a non-profit organization of Airmen who were forced down behind enemy lines and avoided captivity, or escaped from captivity. 

The group also is comprised of "helper" members -- people who either directly aided the Airmen in avoiding capture or who are family members of helpers.

"I sewed (the downed Airmen's) dog-tags in their cuffs, so when they were picked up (by friendly forces) they could just pull those out," said Yvonne Daley-Brusselmanns, an AFEES helper member and reunion chairman.

Ms. Daley-Brusselmanns said she considered her role as a helper a small one. In order for the Airmen to blend into World War II enemy-occupied Belgium, the young girl coached them on minor etiquettes. Seemingly insignificant mannerisms could have been a give-away to enemy forces for identifying the Airmen as Americans.

"I would take them on short walks, and I taught them to eat the European way," she said. "I told them not to light a cigarette by shielding (it with their hand) and to not jingle money in their pockets."

She said she and her mother, Anne, started helping the Airmen because her mother felt it was the right thing to do.

"My mother used to say, for us to bring back a man to his wife, or his sweetheart or his family, it was worth it, because she said, 'I would like someone to do the same thing for my son,'" Ms. Daley-Brusselmanns said.

During the ceremony, General McNabb likened the past sacrifices of AFEES Airmen to the current sacrifices made by servicemembers fighting the war on terrorism.

"When you think of (the sacrifices of) the 'Greatest Generation,' when you think of what our Soldiers, Sailors Airmen and Marines of this next greatest generation are doing right now, it is every bit as profound and every bit as noble," General McNabb said. "They are putting their lives on the line so that others might live, protecting the tomorrows of those less fortunate -- just like the Greatest Generation, just like you all did."

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