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Col. Bud Day, Medal of Honor recipient, dies at 88

SHALIMAR, Fla. - One of our country's most decorated service members, retired Air Force Colonel George "Bud" Day, has died. The Medal of Honor recipient passed away Saturday at his home in Shalimar.

Senator John McCain says he owes his life to Bud Day, a man others say never forgot to take care of fallen comrades and old warriors.

Senator McCain released a statement saying Day, "Was the bravest man I ever knew, and his fierce resistance and resolute leadership set the example for us in prison of how to return home with honor."
   
Colonel Day spent five-and-a-half years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam after being shot down. He was McCain's cellmate for a time in the infamous prison known as the Hanoi Hilton.
   
Day was questioned and tortured, managed to escape, and was recaptured. Despite years of brutal treatment, he never cracked, and his perseverance ultimately earned him the Medal of Honor. In all, he earned more than 70 medals and served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.

"We lost a hero," said Bill Everett, the commander of a local branch of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, who knew Day for years.

Everett said Day, "Helped generate the good relationship with all the veterans coming back from Afghanistan and Iraq and he moved that spirit towards everybody."

In the 1970's, Day retired from the military to Fort Walton Beach, where he practiced law and became a crusader for veterans' health care benefits.

Analysts credit his efforts with paving the way for the expansion of the military's TRICARE health insurance program to include many veterans over age 65.

Patt Maney, a judge in Okaloosa County and a retired brigadier general says his friend Day will be missed.

Maney said, "Bud Day was a very unassuming, plain-spoken, blunt-at-times person who didn't waste a lot of time but he was incredibly generous both with his time and his love for other people."

Colonel Bud Day was 88 years-old.
   
Services are expected to be held on Thursday at the Emerald Coast Conference Center in Fort Walton Beach.
   
Day will then be buried at Barrancas National Cemetery in Pensacola.