YORBA LINDA (CBSLA.com) — Scores of Vietnam POWs are gathering for a three-day reunion at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library.
“It was hours and hours of boredom punctuated by moments of pure terror,” said former POW Jerry Coffee of his experience.
Standing next to his former cell mate, Neil Black, the two men spoke to KCAL9’s Louisa Hodge about the experience and their life-long friendship.
“It’s a bond thats difficult to explain and difficult to describe,” said Coffee.
“I’ve seen more of Jerry than his wife will ever see,” quipped Black.
Many of these Vietnam POWs — who traveled from across the country — were meeting for the first time.
“I spent 61 months in North Vietnam and most of that was in solitary so I didn’t get to know a lot of these guys,” said former POW Larry Rider.
President Nixon called them “true heroes” — and on the first day of this reunion they were treated as such — escorted in buses led by a motorcade.
The honored guests were greeted in parade-like fashion by people waving flags and banners. They were accompanied by police escorts and greeted when they got to the front steps of the Nixon Library.
“If there is such a thing as heroism, this is the perfect example. They stuck together communicating through the wall with taps — unbelievable stories,” said Ed Nixon, the former president’s brother.
This reunion is being held 40-years to the day President Nixon hosted the biggest dinner ever on the South Lawn of the White House for Vietnam POWs.
Now decades later, POWs along with friends and family toured a brand new library exhibit honoring their service and remembering days past.
“I’m coming home, I’ve done my time. That opening line says it all,” sang Tony Orlando, from his hit song “Tie A Yellow Ribbon.”
This reunion was a reminder to many, of how these former prisoners of war persevered and what it took to make it home.
Said one former POW, “We had faith that we could get home and President Nixon made it happen. He will always be special to us.”