COLUMBIA, SC (WLTX) -- Richland Northeast High School students got into the Valentine's Day spiritThursday with the third annual "Valentines for Vets" event.

It gave the Richland School District 2students a chance to thank veterans for their service and hear stories from the men and women who lived through it.

Perry McLeod, a history teacher of 20 years at the school and event organizer, says this day is a perfect opportunity to say "thank you" to Midlands veterans.

Photojournalist Matt Youngblood shares some ofthe amazing story that World War II Army Air Corps veteran and POW, Tech Sergeant Louis Fowler, shared with students in his own words.

After enlisting when he was only 18 years-old, Fowler joined the US Army Air Corps. As a gunner on a B-24 Liberator bomber, he and his crew were shot down over Austria on Sunday afternoon, March 19th, 1944.

Out of the ten crewmen onboard, only two others made it out of the plane. Fowler and his two fellow airmen, were tortured and endured the horrors of German prison camps until they finally escaped the nightof April 25th, 1945 with the help another prisoner from Osh Kosh, WI who spoke German well enough to disguise himself as an SS guard.

Fowler says freedom and realizing one's destiny is the most precious thing in the world and he hopes the youth of America find their purpose in life and eventually live to do something to be proud of.

McLeod will continue honoring veterans and says the event hosted veterans from WWII to the present conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. He hopes students benefit from the first-hand recounting of veterans' experiences and "inspiresa sense of patriotism"to see the sacrifices of these men and women through the years.

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