Col. George "Bud" Day is being remembered as an American hero who set the standard for bravery and patriotism.
Day, one of the most decorated airmen in U.S. Air Force history, died Saturday at his home in Shalimar. He was 88.
According to the official USAF website, Day was born in Sioux City, Iowa in 1925 and later spent more than 35 years in the military as a pilot and commander.
After his plane was shot down over North Vietnam in 1967, Day spent 5½ years as a prisoner of war, including an extended period of time in the infamous "Hanoi Hilton" prison camp where he was tortured for refusing to cooperate with the enemy.
At one point, Day's cell mate was John McCain, who went on to become a U.S. Senator from Arizona and a presidential candidate.
"I owe my life to Bud, and much of what I know about character and patriotism," Sen. McCain wrote in a statement released after Day's death. "He 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."
U.S. Congressman Steve Southerland (R-Florida) also issued a statement. "Col. Day is a true American hero who touched countless lives," Southerland wrote. "As a prisoner of war, a Medal of Honor and Purple Heart recipient, and a tireless advocate for his fellow veterans, Col. Day never stopped fighting for the nation he loved so dearly."
During his career, Day was awarded every significant combat decoration available from the U.S. Air Force. He was awarded the Medal of Honor by President Gerald Ford in 1976, the same year he retired from active duty.
A funeral service is expected to be held Thursday at the Emerald Coast Convention Center in Fort Walton Beach with burial in the Barrancas National Cemetery in Pensacola to follow.
Click here for more details of Col. George "Bud" Day's military career.