99-year-old Mississippi WWII veteran, former POW reflects on his years of service

Published: Nov. 11, 2021 at 5:05 PM CST
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NESBIT, Miss. (WMC) - Ninety-nine-year-old Olin Pickens remembers it like it was yesterday.

“I left home on August 19, 1942. I was 20 years old at the time,” said Pickens, a WWII veteran and prisoner of war (POW).

He volunteered for the army, and after basic training was placed in the 805th Tank Destroyer Battalion.

“They said you’ll be like a suicide mission. When the battle is over, you’ll either be killed or captured,” he recounted.

Pickens was captured in North Africa after his unit went on that mission.

“I lost my freedom, my dignity, and my pride, right there, but I didn’t lose my faith,” he said.

It was his faith that helped him get through 26 months as a POW in German prison camps.

Pickens often went without food and lost 1/3 of his body weight during that time. He also lost many friends and fellow soldiers along the way.

He eventually escaped and went to Czechoslovakia, but was recaptured before he was eventually freed on April 21, 1945.

“One of the best days of my life was getting my freedom back,” Pickens said.

Although it was a difficult journey, he had this to say about serving our country.

“As bad as it was, we would do it again for our freedom,” Pickens said.

Pickens will turn 100 years old on December 31. His family is planning a birthday reception to honor him.

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