“World War II veterans are some of the greatest Americans we’ve ever known, and as we honor our nation’s veterans this weekend, it’s my true privilege to stand with Lt. Colonel Keeler and present him with this great honor,” stated Hatch. “Lt. Colonel is a truly courageous and patriotic American. Even after being held in two POW camps, he continued to serve in the United States military for more than 26 years. I am truly humbled by our nation’s veterans, and it is because of Lt. Colonel Keeler and so many others like him that we can continue to enjoy the sacred gift of freedom.”
The plane Lt. Colonel Keeler was piloting was shot down over Merseburg, Germany on November 2, 1944. Lt. Colonel Keeler and his crew were immediately captured by German troops, and he was first held at the POW Camp Stalag LUFT III, 60 miles southeast of Berlin. Then, because of the advancing Russian Army, Lt. Colonel Keeler was moved to Stalag VII A at Moosburg, Germany, 30 miles northeast of Munich. He was freed on April 29, 1945 by U.S. General George Patton’s 3rd Army Corps. He continued to serve in the United States Air Force, ultimately retiring from active duty as a Lieutenant Colonel at the Da Nang Air Base in South Vietnam in 1971.
The Prisoner of War Medal was not established until 1985; many years after Lt. Colonel Keeler had been in captivity. Hatch was able to procure this medal after it was brought to his attention that this Utah Veteran had not received all the medals he had earned. Joining Hatch on the field for the presentation will be members of Lt. Colonel Keeler’s family, and officials from the University of Utah.