FRISCO, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) – More than 100 Vietnam War POWs have gathered for a “Return to Freedom” 45th anniversary reunion in Frisco.
It was a day of camaraderie and remembrance – a chance for these men to share old memories – and make new ones.
Ken Cordier and Mike McGrath share an unbreakable bond.
“We made plans together, OK, when we get out, we’re going to do this,” recalls retired Navy Captain McGrath.
Cordier, a retired Air Force Colonel, and McGrath, a navy pilot, forged a friendship as roommates in the infamous prison – nicknamed the Hanoi Hilton – after they were captured.
“I was shot down on the 2nd of December 1966,” says Cordier.
They say for more than five years, hope and friendship kept the pair alive.
“We just became friends because we could talk the same language and laugh at the same jokes and we just had similar interests,” says McGrath.
Around 140 former POWs are spending the week reflecting, and reuniting with friends and their families, who’ve criss crossed the country to be here.
They’re marking 45 years of freedom since their release at the end of the Vietnam War.
McGrath says the pair have returned to Vietnam several times over the years.
“It’s a wonderful tourist place. We don’t have any lingering hard feelings. But I don’t forgive them. Still, I understand. It’s war time, their job was to torture us and to extract military information as best they could,” says McGrath.
His captors broke his body, but not his will to survive.
“They dislocated the other shoulder and my elbow until they broke me past name, rank and serial number. I started telling them gibberish. I was about dead. They just left me on the floor to live or die,” remembers McGrath.
The former POWs say their mission is to continue inspiring and educating.
“As long as I’m healthy and can travel, I’m going to keep telling my story,” says Cordier.
The annual reunion will be held this Friday at the Circle T Ranch in Westlake. There will be a police-led motorcade and a private airshow and flyover.