Price of war is even higher for POWs

By Bakari Savage, Reporter
Last Updated: Sunday, July 27, 2014, 10:17 PM EDT

The price of war is even higher when you become a prisoner of war.

That’s what was learned this weekend from former Vietnam POW Colonel Lee Ellis, who talked about learning lesson and the importance of having a network for all veterans when returning home.

With the battle going to keep Winter Park’s Veterans Affairs Hospital up and running, News 13 spoke with retired Colonel Ellis uses personal experience to make the subject hit home during this weekend’s “Yellow Ribbon” event, addressing hundreds of reservists.

“You know, I came home. I was shut down emotionally, for a long time. Uh, it didn’t hurt me at work but it did hurt me at home. Because if you’re shut down emotionally, how are you going to deal with your wife and kids?” Asks Retired Colonel Lee Ellis, as he recalls his return from Vietnam as a prisoner of war, kept in the Hanoi Hilton.

Ellis relates it to the importance of resources provided by VA facilities in Central Florida.

“For me, being a prisoner of war; the worst thing about it was to be alone. To be in solitary confinement, away from everybody else,” added Ellis.

In his book, Col. Ellis says people have to understand that when you come home from war, it’s like being alone when you’re thrust back into civilian life. Older generations, like his, had the advantage of time to readjust, something the younger generations don’t always have. 

“Today, they’re over there fighting and they leave their buddies; maybe one got killed yesterday or got wounded the day before or the week before, they leave that intense environment, war environment and they come back home and sit down at the supper table with their family who has no connection to that, no understanding of that,” adds Colonel Ellis.

Ellis says if vets can be together and talk about what they went through it really helps them make that adjustment when they come home. That’s what the atmosphere of the VA provides.

Colonel Ellis hopes that will be taken into consideration with the battle over Central Florida’s VA facilities in Winter Park and Lake Nona because there’s a new generation of troops to care for.

“I think I see more similarities than differences. They are very dedicated, very committed. They’re getting good training. So, those are the similarities. And, I think they’re doing a wonderful job,” concluded Colonel Ellis.