More than 100 members of the Killeen-Harker Heights Rotary Club heard retired U.S. Air Force Col. Thomas “Jerry” Curtis, 85, share his Vietnam War prisoner of war experience at a breakfast meeting Friday at 1st Methodist Church in Killeen.
Bob Crouch, Rotary president said February is Peace & Conflict Resolution Month for Rotary Clubs, so Curtis was the perfect speaker.
“Jerry Curtis is a national treasure, and what a great way to kick off this month,” Crouch said.
In 1965, then-Capt. Curtis’ helicopter was downed in North Vietnam during a search-and-rescue mission to save another pilot. He was held for 7½ years at the North Vietnam prisoner of war camp known as Hanoi Hilton, in a 5-foot by 7-foot cell, until released in 1973.
The North Vietnamese concept was to divide and rule, Curtis said. “They didn’t want us to communicate with another American or even see another American.”
The hours of boredom were only interrupted by hours of terror, he added.
Curtis, a Temple resident, said surviving the POW experience was faith in action.
“I had faith I was up to the task because of the American values I learned growing up in Texas. All that is based on my faith in God,” he said.
The crowd gave Curtis a standing ovation after his speech with some people wiping away tears. Others were too moved to express their feelings, but Susan Jones spoke for many.
“Our freedom isn’t free and men like Curtis served our country well and with honor and dignity,” Jones said.