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Col. Lee Ellis: Rembrances Of the Hanoi Hilton

Nov 12, 2012|

Col. Lee Ellis spent 1,953 days (5 ½ years) in the infamous “Hanoi Hilton” prison camp after his fighter jet was shot down over North Vietnam. He recounts this harrowing experience in his book Leading With Honor: Leadership Lessons from the Hanoi Hilton. Col. Ellis joined us this Veteran's Day

Transcript - will not be 100% accurate

Well we're -- -- -- -- right now currently Ellis who has done just that. He has made his life's mission. Taking care of other veterans and he's done so for the terrific book called leading with honor. Colonel thank you so much is service into joining us on this veterans day. Thank human -- could be review. Let's -- happy why I mean here here -- your service to this country's extraordinary. But I love the idea that it continues in and you still. -- fighting for us fighting for the country by making the back and taking -- talked a little bit about these numbers he staggering unemployment numbers but some of your brother. Well you know the the typical post nine elevenths that president. Employment. Unemployment rate is higher than the average but the real problem are the young folks like eighteen to 24 and twenty -- thirty. They have. Great so the eighteen to 24 group was up in the twenties. For whites and minorities have been in supporting so we really need to be looking at how we can. Help our young people get back into the swing of work because they're really been screened and trained and they have all these capabilities. And they certainly do him in -- you talk about leading in your book leading with honor. It's how business owners can use the tools that you. Here -- honed in and goes along awful years you spent. And that in a POW camp that you can use those tools with veterans working and business here in this country now. Yes absolutely the just the principles first ball and then the tools we have assessment tools and there also so. Particularly used in hiring and interviewing process. But I think just the understanding of the principles of leadership and teamwork and communication. And a lot of that -- that the majority have a good handle on you know they've been trying to a lot of that and that would make them a real asset to any organization. But I think those same that same concept. A bleeding with honor. Requires suited to look around and take care of those people on your team and those people that ought to be undertaking. Well what he promises that Barack Obama me in 2008 during his first campaign for the White House. Is he promised he would fulfill -- sacred trust -- veterans and in. In doing that he was significantly reduce the government's backlog of pending claims for disability. Now this was a lofty goal all veteran should get a decision on disability claims within a hundred point five days. But on this veterans day as you know the president prepares for his second term. Mean has pledged not only remains unfulfilled it has become a rallying cry to sick veterans there widows advocates because now it takes longer than ever. As long as two years the disability decisions from the Department of Veterans Affairs. According to new statistics and what do you say to that -- some of these broken promises you know what I textures. Referred to a lying made famous by our senate elect was warrant at the middle class is getting hammered but the truth is the veterans are really don't want getting hammered. We you know I think the reality is when you're dealing with government -- typically what you get. The VA is it large government organizations large government bureaucracy. It doesn't functional like of this I don't have the time accountability. That a business would have to provide first customers. So because of that you don't have the same advocacy. And you don't have the same response to don't have the same accountability with the employees. Be tried -- a government employee lately. That -- know that's almost an impossible thing to do so. Where is as innocent and -- people have to produce and there held accountable for their goals and that sort of thing. It's much more difficult to do that in the government just because of the unions -- out there regulations that are in place to protect their employees so. At least you could not hit it's not that they're bad people that this system itself is fundamentally bureaucracy. But the bureaucracy when it affects families and such away and you will you know there are a lot of people out of their apoplectic. Over the boy hood. Massacre in the idea that that it's been classified as workplace tonight what is which was an act of terror cracked down. Active duty. Service members. Mean -- a lot of things go wrong with veterans that people are not as aware as it might have been after World War II after Vietnam went with it. Awful. I promise that a lot of BER comrades went through -- that guys coming back from now and from Afghanistan Iraq. And now the the bureaucracy is worse than ever before. -- 20 lead -- bureaucracy there always is bigger slower over the years and that certainly happened such forward to do and even Vietnam I think. And -- you know pessimists and -- so much smaller percent population now. In a -- goes in the military it's Austria 4% of the population -- any military service. Unlike World War II where almost all the males were pulled in and even in Vietnam a large percent although actually in Vietnam. The largest percent were volunteers but that was driven primarily about the draft. So it's not I think it's made people now so it's harder to get the momentum. That you would have you know been able to get earlier. Can lead you back to that terrible day November 10 1967. You -- an air force fighter pilot. And you're on a bombing raid over north Vietnam what happened next. The airplane that was hit and blew up into several pieces and he just was complying anymore. And I knew that it was applying and had to get out which is you know you worst personal professional nightmares to jump up. Into enemy territory right over the gutters -- -- shooting too but that's what I had to do. A look at the live -- new airplane and other respect and so. My partner and there were two of this airplane we built jumped out and everything worked magnificently as far as the automatic ejection. Our parachutes for it and -- we were captured right after we hit the ground. We spent about two weeks into the Hanoi Hilton and we've spent the next nine months six and app but seven puts -- player and we were introduced to well. You know the Communist way of treating prisoners was some torture and that's sort of things so we learned that we just had to learn to live with that we were still fighting the war but in -- different form. And in that war went on for quite a long time what inspired you colonel I mean you think you would come back from such harrowing experience I've -- he has. -- -- Pow camp run by savages but you keep backing you kept up this by eight. And you did so in. Representing the veterans what inspired you to do that would meet what was that parts that it's okay we have to make sure that our veterans so recognized tired. Taking care of in this country. Well for me just hang on I think I believe that we could return someday and we had great teamwork. Which I think it is important -- on that what the veterans need to. You know they come out of that military experience where there are so close all their. And then they go back into a situation where they don't know anybody they don't have a system works anymore. You know they kill law and they get despondent so. What we did -- other north Vietnam as we used Covert communication and we took risks to reach out our buddies to reach out of them as they anywhere which you. We're hang in which you're not only to be left behind. And that's exactly the same thing we need today is to reach out to those that terms and say hey we're with you let us walk with you Dennis path. And help you in that way now -- organization this evening for a reception. And it's one of the groups is that and what they do is they helped them right Reza -- they helped him do practiced for job interviews. To help them do financed through financial counseling. So there reaching out and these are all veterans here a lot of our Vietnam vets that are working with these young guys here in the local area and Atlanta. Trying to help them make that adjustment the color re integration now. And this is all outlined in your great -- leading with honor I just bought myself a copy which I -- give to my dad was also -- Vietnam that. And you can buy it on Amazon.com gonna put a link. To colonel Lee Allison has Buckley and an honor on how we card US we'll put a link up on colleague dot car dot com. Any message may have current for the veterans today. Well just think -- the veterans. The Vietnam vets were not -- so much when they came at home they were pretty much dishonored. But they're starting to be honored united today and I just encourage everyone to recognize you bit. Reach out of them especially the young -- they really need our help to make that adjustment they'll migrate systems they are great citizens they'll make great employees sent. Reach out and give my chance and bring him and give them some. Some reintegration into society that there in today and help them get that jumpstart. -- -- -- -- -- -- Sure but his -- here on how we our show with -- -- Alice -- mark already had -- -- -- marquis go right ahead here on how it our show. Paid nothing much. Tortilla just work. You know -- -- we give thanks your veterans today and the different mind lately was not -- India. He's a quiet man great man and that -- he's the battle I am bucket that generation just came after Vietnam and you know I cannot. During veterans day I think about. You know movies in the past -- seem like fourth of July even simpler and your honor. I'm worried about the younger generation and I I have a feeling and it appears that the younger generation doesn't give a damn anymore about what it -- to get to where we are as a country. And I certainly don't feel a leader. Obama specifically. Really at any kind of example and I don't think he's fostering patriotism and all of this country. And I think it's a struggle. Generational the you know to uphold that valor that that patriotic feeling. And these young veterans are coming back from. You know a rocket. Yeah they're the age of the ones who I am most concerned about not giving a damn it's almost like Vietnam all over. And I'm glad that much about it I'm really concerned that. We're losing. We're losing that. That association with what it took to get where we are and sometimes it feel like we're preaching to the -- Well I think it's easy to be despondent and now it just like excuse. You're looking evidence from that perspective just like as a POW. I think what we -- have to do is we have to say I am one person and I can make a difference and I'll leave and also an example aura -- You know one of the POW lives was civil stock -- and talk about her the book. Her courage. To step out and help inform the National League appeared to be MIA families made all the difference in the world she actually. We moved to Washington DC and and through direct conversations with the secretary of state Kissinger. Secretary of the defense layered and Richard Nixon president United States. Confronted them about not. Standing -- more about the POWs treatment and they changed their policies she got millions of people in the US organized have the national -- -- drama student. And they put pressure on the north Vietnamese and they changed our treatment. So one person can make a huge difference so I have my goal is to be one person who makes a difference in this sphere of influence that I have. I can't reach everybody that I can reach those that are around me and so that's what I encourage people to do. Have the courage to do what you know you ought to do in the situation in this situation. It's the lead with courage and to lead for the honor. To try to get our country going in the right direction. Thank you colonel dirty you are next on how the cars are already had. -- -- -- -- I haven't contained -- -- -- that my family through generations it's normal for this country. But Indian head division -- wrong. Expense for its -- -- -- -- -- in Korea and my complaint that a complaint my concern is. When we only talked about the current conflicts -- country it's gone through Spanish side from double double to right into the Vietnam and it -- Korea. And give him a couple of points. Three have Bosnia. All four. -- -- We -- madman in Korea until -- in Vietnam one period of time and then ninth -- -- class at West Point. Has the highest casualty rate and going to classes in the laboratory in this country romantic love Britain and others but. I know I -- -- -- -- -- -- that says you know Americans. Forgotten what career and I wish the public. And then if you -- -- the approval educates the public a little bit about what went on over there. Yes I know you're exactly right they have not received the attention they should have. They did get squeezed out and I totally agree with you and I'm glad you brought that to our attention today -- Good point. We do appreciate them yet. Dear Carolyn thank you -- a speech here -- thank you for your service. I mean you have a problem with the idea that the media does not cover the sacrifices that are made on a daily basis to that in Afghanistan. Wind is never a list anymore that people who have laid down now lads instead we have front page stories about Navy SEALs who -- disciplined. Because they engage in some sort of side job as a video game consultant. And yeah I think they they tend to pick what they wanted to highlight and what -- like so there of their own a perspective on things is what they wanna do so. Obviously wanna sell papers and so. They'll so many papers anymore but they wanna get to news in front of people that want people watching. -- version of the news so. They try to make it dramatic and part of that though is to. I think has been not a highlight what's going on in Afghanistan for a number of reasons. But. We would sure like to know more I think about the families in the sacrifices they've made you know when I think of veterans they always think that the sacrifice -- the payments behind those veteran. And they hit they're the ones and also pretty huge price so. I don't know how you know I don't think I can drop that two I think is the people. In general. And remember veterans today and remember the sacrifices that our young people make him right now in Afghanistan and around the world where -- sign. Well I sort of like a seamless stories. On the officers and the rank and file that a doing the work this allows us to have this conversation in and take keep up the fight. Rather than stories about General Petraeus has to loveliest. Yeah yeah. There would be -- yeah. Well the book is called leave with honor it's written by currently Alice a Vietnam War. Hero fighter pilot. And somebody who has spent five and a half he has motivating his troops to stay solid and know that they gonna go home one day and we thank you -- service and we think it's been so much time. He'll let us and I with our show. Well McHale thank you so good if you'd have me on and that would show that and to all the best we say thank you for your service. Well thank you colonel -- -- leading with aren't there is a link to the -- once again on how we cart dot US that's how it. How -- -- dot com. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- I'm employed veterans is absolutely insane to continue the conversation homage -- like fetus is Alec our show.