SIOUX CITY -- Those who knew the late Col. George "Bud" Day well never needed to use his name in conversation.
All you needed to say was "The Colonel," and everyone knew who you were talking about, said retired Chief Master Sgt. Brendan Burchard, of Sioux City.
"Now we'll have to refer to him as 'The General,'" said Burchard, who served in the Sioux City-based 185th Air Refueling Wing, Iowa Air National Guard.
Though deserving of the promotion to brigadier general before his 1977 retirement from the U.S. Air Force, Day never received it, his outspoken nature of standing up against things that weren't right likely ruffling the feathers of too many high-ranking military leaders.
Any leftover political ill will toward the Sioux City native and Medal of Honor recipient has been swept aside.
On Friday, the Air Force presented Day's widow, Doris, with her husband's posthumous honorary promotion to brigadier general at a concert at the Air Force Memorial in Arlington, Virginia, the Air Force Times reported.
Notably humble, Day would have thought the promotion was nice, but it's not something he pursued himself, Burchard said.
"You never once heard him complain about it or badmouthing. That's just the way he was. There's a whole lot of us that are very gratified that this happened," said Burchard, one of many who worked to have the Colonel Bud Day Field name added to Sioux City's Sioux Gateway Airport.
Day died at age 88 in July 2013 at his Florida home. A decorated veteran who earned more than 70 medals during World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, he spent more than five years as a POW after his plane was shot down over North Vietnam in August 1967. He was captured and held prisoner until March 1973.
While being held at the infamous "Hanoi Hilton" prison, Day was a cellmate of another pilot named John McCain. Now a Republican senator from Arizona and former presidential candidate, it was McCain who introduced Day's posthumous advancement, which was directed by the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act. It was effective March 27, according to Air Force Times.
After his retirement from the Air Force, Day practiced law in Florida and became a crusader for veterans' health care benefits. His action in a 2003 lawsuit is credited with prompting Congress to pass legislation expanding a military health care program to cover more veterans.
In 2007, the Siouxland Chamber of Commerce launched a campaign to have Day promoted to brigadier general. During their annual lobbying trip to Washington, D.C., that year, Chamber members distributed position papers to members of Siouxland's congressional delegation urging them to help Day receive the honor.
Chamber president Chris McGowan slipped the same position paper to McCain later that year while the senator was in Sioux City campaigning for president. McGowan said Tuesday he was happy to see Day receive the long overdue promotion.
"My most cherished memories will always include getting to know General Bud Day and subsequently working to champion his extraordinary legacy of patriotic service, incredible sacrifice and unparalleled personal humility," McGowan said.