Forty years after he was released as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam, former Columbus resident and retired Army Col. Benjamin H. Purcell died Tuesday of natural causes at his home in Clarksville, Ga. He was 85.
He was faithful in his duty to his country and he was a soldier of honor, said his widow Anne Purcell. He was also a warrior for his Lord. It took both the soldier and the Lord to bring him home.
Purcell was the highest ranking Army officer held as prisoner of war after the helicopter he was riding was shot down on Feb. 8, 1968, in South Vietnam. He was released from the Hanoi Hilton more than five years later on March 27, 1973.
Visitation is from 2-4 p.m. and 6-8 p.m. Friday at Hillside Memorial Chapel, according to the funeral home. The funeral with full military honors will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at Bethlehem Baptist Church, Clarksville. Burial will follow in Level Grove Cemetery, Cornelia.