Last Friday, in a crowded windowless conference room at the Inogen headquarters in Goleta, Puett L. Willcox — one of the last WWII POW survivors — was honored for his service and given a free portable oxygen tank.
After a brief ceremony, Puett regaled his audience with two hours of storytelling filled with both horrific and humorous anecdotes from the war.
Puett was shot down in a B-24 bomber plane in Austria in 1944 when he was 19 and spent time in a Nazi prison camp where he nearly died of starvation, dropping over 70 pounds. A particularly poignant moment that he recounted to the audience was when the entire prison camp spontaneously broke into song on a freezing Christmas Eve, singing rounds of “Silent Night.”
Since returning to the States, he has been diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a condition that requires that he have a constant supply of oxygen. Puett — a native of Longview, Texas who also spent 20 years at Vandenberg Air Force Base — could no longer travel long distances because of this condition, and complications arose with insurance companies that could potentially help him attain a portable tank.
To Puett’s great fortune, Inogen employees chipped in to give him a free Inogen One Portable Oxygen Concentrator. At the ceremony, Puett, dressed in uniform, was in tears as he thanked the company for their gift. “Travelling with oxygen is a pain in the fanny,” he said, with his characteristic humor that he seems to bring to all of life’s hardships.