The Way We Were: The POWs came home in 1973 (Tabb, Schrump, Crowson, Hardy)

Almost 50 years ago this month, they began to arrive.

It was called Operation Homecoming, and it saw 591 American military prisoners of war finally free after years of often brutal captivity in Vietnam.

Over several weeks in February and March of 1973, they were returned to military bases in the United States for medical care and evaluation, and 12 of them came to Fort Gordon.

That first group, which landed Feb. 18 at Augusta’s Bush Field, was greeted by cheering crowds and a red carpet.

More than 3,000 were there to welcome Maj. Raymond C. Schrump and Maj. William H. Hardy, both of Fayetteville, N.C.; and Spc. Frederick Crowson, of Pensacola, Fla.

The next night, Staff Sgt. Felix Neco-Quinones, of Puerto Rico, arrived and was met by his fiancee, who had waited five years for his return.

For those who wanted to know what it had been like to be held captive with little food, to be tortured physically and mentally, the soldiers told them.

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