Former prisoners of war enjoy prosperity, peace now (Ramon Horinek)

If captured by the enemy and imprisoned during wartime, American servicemembers must summon the highest levels of courage. 

A pair of retired lieutenant colonels in Texas knows all too well what it’s like to be stripped of freedoms and have their patriotism and faith put to the test. 

Lawrence Barbay was shot down during the Vietnam War, in July 1966, and spent more than six-and-a-half years as a prisoner of war. He now lives in Austin. 

Ramon Horinek was shot down over North Vietnam in October 1967 and spent over five years in captivity. He now lives in Universal City. 

The men were imprisoned together in the same holding area at the Hoa Lo prison, known by many veterans as the “Hanoi Hilton.” Both came home to the United States in March 1973, as the historically slow Paris peace talks finally brought the end of the war, but each had to endure harsh conditions that tested their willpower. 

“The first week was probably my worst of the entire time I was there,” Mr. Horinek said this week. “My captors were really tough on me when I first arrived and it was a real struggle. One prisoner already there asked me when I thought we might go home. I told him it would probably be no less than five years. That’s just the way it was going over there at that point. 

“I had a deep faith in my God and my country – a faith that was strengthened while I was captive,” Horinek said. “I kept my sense of humor and continued to believe, day after day, that my freedom would eventually come.” 

Horinek described attempts by North Vietnamese authorities to force U.S. captives to write or sign documents admitting their guilt. There were brutal beatings and countless mind games plotted and carried out daily, in and around Hanoi, at camps where POWs were held. 

Carrying a captain’s rank at the time of his capture, Horinek recounted the various means of persuasion utilized by the communists. His body was routinely bent at odd angles, he was shackled, beaten with a variety of clubs, slapped with pieces of tire rubber and his ears and head were slapped or pounded on repeatedly by North Vietnamese interrogators. 

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