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Return With Honor

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Online Forum: 11.20.00

What was the ONE thing that you were able to cling to more than any other during especially rough times? I know it's personal for everyone, but I was curious to the overall idea.
Chris Enslow

Answered by Major General Ed Mechenbier
The anchor thought was that we were in this kettle together. No one man had it rougher than any other. We were a team and everyone felt they had to do their job as best they could.

Answered by Lt. Colonel Kevin McManus
Chris, thanks for your interest in RETURN WITH HONOR and a really tough question. I could write a two-volume answer or a two-line answer. I chose the latter (it makes easier reading). It's difficult to pinpoint ONE thing over an extended period of time but if I had to select ONE it would be Risner's Rules: Keep faith in God, our country, our families, and each other. Later, this was distilled even further: Return with honor.

How can you not feel hatred for your captors and torturers? I'm a Vietnam Veteran myself and can't understand how you could be so forgiving. You all are my heroes, welcome home brothers.
John H. Staten

Answered by Captain Mike McGrath
Hi John... Thanks for the note... Actually, it was quite natural. We figured out, even in the prisons, that hatred (in any form, hard feelings, regret, self-pity, etc.) was more destructive on ourselves than on the enemy. We quickly got on with living... exercising... studying, etc. Even today, it is a lot more fun to fly fish, hunt, golf, play with grandkids, ad infinitum... than to dwell on the past. The only thing I regret is my bum left arm which limits me to the low 80s in golf! Damn the bad luck.

I tell my co-workers that I could set down and eat dinner with a North Vietnamese soldier because their job was to kill me and my job was to kill them. I have respect for and will honor any soldier, from any country. Is this so wrong? My co-workers tell me that I am sick in the mind, but I think that all military personnel deserve at least that for putting their lives on the line for a cause that they may or may not believe in.
Larry M. Morton

Answered by Major General Ed Mechenbier
Larry: Right on. A job is a job and in the context of the different cultures, you need to overlook some differences. Now, I don't know that I'd opt for any more Vietnamese food though. Can we go to the McDonalds?

What were your impressions, then and now, of the peace activists who visited North Vietnam during your captivity?
Steve Whelan

Answered by Lt. Colonel Kevin McManus
Steve, thanks for your interest in RETURN WITH HONOR and your question which isn't easy to answer. My impressions, then and now, have not changed much. I felt that Ramsey Clark, Jane Fonda, and others were providing aid and comfort to an enemy of the United States and should be tried under Article III of the Constitution. For some unknown reason our country felt they were not to be charged, and now anyone and everyone feel they can do as they please regardless of the impact on other citizens. I didn't and don't agree with this policy because the outcome(chaos)is virtually guaranteed.

If you could speak to the Vietnamese soldiers who tortured you, what would you say/ask of them? And do you forgive them?
Paul Evans

Answered by Major General Ed Mechenbier
I have no personal animosity toward the Vietnamese's soldiers. They were doing their job in the context of their culture.

Answered by Lt. Colonel Kevin McManus
Paul, thanks for the question and your interest in RETURN WITH HONOR. As most of us have no animosity toward our captors and life has continued on for all (both sides), I would ask them what and how they and their families have been doing since the war. To bring up old wounds serves no immediate or long term purpose and is just not of any interest to me.

Why do you suppose the treatment was so barbaric? Do you feel it was inherent in the Vietnamese people? Where did we keep our Vietnamese prisoners of war? Were they released soon after the war? Thank you all for your sacrifice to Country. Your efforts will never be forgotten.
John Adcox

Answered by Lt. Colonel Kevin McManus
John, thanks so much for your comments and best wishes. From your questions (and I hope to do them justice with the answers) I gather you liked the movie. As for the barbarity of the treatment I think the reasons are manifold. Initially we were under the political regime's control rather than under the military's.

Around the world we find political control more emotional, brutal, and extreme than military control and that was the case in Hanoi. Secondly, the Vietnamese (along with many other European colonies) had not been treated as they had expected at the end of World War II, so they had little respect for Westerners in general. Lastly (and directly in response to your second question), I do not pretend to understand the Vietnamese culture except that it is different from ours. U. S. POWs have not been treated well in any oriental cultures including Japan, China, Korea and Eastern Russia, so I don't know why we might expect else from NVN.

As for your last two questions, I don't know where all the NVN POWs were held, but I believe the vast majority were kept by the RVN armed forces. They were returned in a scheduled release in 1973 in accordance with the Paris agreements just as we were.

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