One of the most highly decorated service members in U.S. military history has been posthumously advanced to the rank of brigadier general.
Col. George “Bud” Day was honored June 8 during a Heritage to Horizons summer concert series at the Air Force Memorial in Arlington, Virginia.
Day served as an enlisted Marine during World War II and an Air Force fighter pilot in Korea and Vietnam over a 35-year military career.
Day earned 70 decorations throughout his service, including the Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest award for valor, and the Air Force Cross.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein, who presided over the concert, praised Day and the troops who fought alongside him during the Vietnam War.
“I’d like to recognize all our Vietnam era veterans and thank them for their service,” Goldfein said during the ceremony. “Tonight, we gather to remember those who gave the last measure of devotion, those missing in action, those who endured the harsh and tyrannical treatment at places like the Hanoi Hilton and their families.”
Day is best known for his service during the Vietnam War.
On Aug. 26, 1967, Day, then a 43-year-old major, was in command of a squadron of F-100s flying a top-secret mission over North Vietnam and Laos.
Day’s plane was shot down, and he ejected, breaking his arm in three places and dislocating his knee in the process.
He was captured by enemy troops and tortured, but he was able to escape and evade the enemy for two weeks.
Day made it 25 miles before he was discovered by a Viet Cong patrol, shot in the hand and the foot, and imprisoned once again.
Day was taken back to the infamous “Hanoi Hilton,” where he was imprisoned for more than five years, sharing a cell with Sen. John McCain of Arizona.
Day was released on March 14, 1973 — he had spent 67 months in captivity and had been promoted to colonel during his imprisonment.
Three years after his release, Day was presented with the Medal of Honor by President Gerald Ford.
He retired from the military in 1977 and went on to practice law in Florida.
Day passed away at age 88 in July 2013 at his home in Shalimar, Florida.
“I had the privilege of being Bud’s friend for almost five decades of his 88 years,” McCain said at Day’s funeral in 2013. “He was a hard man to kill and expected the same from his subordinates, but more than that, he taught me how to save my self-respect and my honor, and that is a debt I can never repay.”
The posthumous advancement of Day was introduced by McCain and directed by the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act. It was effective March 27.
Noah Nash is a rising senior at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio. At school, he is the editor in chief of the Collegian Magazine and the digital director of the Collegian, Kenyon's newspaper.