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Captured By Love | Lee Ellis and Greg Godek

Building Relationships / Dr. Gary Chapman
The Truth Network Radio
September 16, 2023 1:00 am

Captured By Love | Lee Ellis and Greg Godek

Building Relationships / Dr. Gary Chapman

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September 16, 2023 1:00 am

Stories of sacrifice, resilience and love. You’ll hear them on this Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman. During the Vietnam War, American soldiers were held captive as POWs. Their stories show the power of real love in the midst of separation, hardship and danger. Don’t miss the inspiring stories you’ll encounter on Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman.

Featured resource: Captured by Love: Inspiring True Romance Stories from Vietnam POWs

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So I kept hearing about these stories, these romance stories, and it's just incredible.

I thought Hollywood couldn't write a script like that. These are top gun guys going through being tortured and torn down. The skills that these guys had to have and the lessons that they learned are exactly the same skills that people need to have a successful, happy, long-term relationship. Welcome to Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman, author of the New York Times bestseller, "The 5 Love Languages" . Today's stories of men who were captured twice, once by force and once by love. We're going back to the Vietnam War era to hear about the love stories of 20 prisoners of war who were also captured by love. That's the title of our featured resource at, Captured by Love, Inspiring True Romance Stories from Vietnam POWs.

The authors of that book will join us straight ahead. Gary, I was a kid during the 60s, the early 70s, and as I look back now, there was so much going on, so many changes politically, socially, spiritually too. And the stories that we're going to hear today happened way behind the scenes during that tumultuous time. You know, Chris, that's one of the reasons I'm excited about this program today, because I think, you know, so many things happened in those days that were not on television and not on the radio and all of that. And today, I'm excited that we're going to get back into that history a little bit and talk about romantic relationships during that time. And so, yeah, we're going to have a great time together today.

Well, let's meet our guests. First, Lee Ellis is founder and president of Leadership Freedom LLC and Freedom Star Media. He is an award-winning author and leadership coach. He served as an Air Force fighter pilot, flying 53 combat missions over North Vietnam. In 1967, he was shot down and held as a POW for more than five years in Hanoi and surrounding camps. He was awarded two Silver Stars, the Legion of Merit, the Bronze Star with Valor Device, the Purple Heart, and POW Medal.

After his release, Lee resumed his Air Force career and retired at the rank of Colonel. He and his wife, Mary, live near Atlanta and have four grown children, six grandchildren. Lee's co-author is Greg Godek. He is recognized worldwide as the voice of romantic love, best known for his bestseller, One Thousand One Ways to Be Romantic.

He's now teamed with Lee Ellis to write Captured by Love, inspiring true romance stories from Vietnam POWs. Find out more at the website, Well, Colonel Ellis and Greg, welcome to Building Relationships. Thank you very much. We're very excited to be with you here because we love what you do and are so happy that you have this program because it just fits so many of our needs in our country around the world, really. So thank you for doing what you're doing and have been doing for many years. Well, we're delighted to have this time with you today. So, Lee, I want to start with you and spend time hearing your story, and then we're going to hear from Greg.

It sounds like this book has been rolling around in your soul for a long time. Why did you want people to hear these stories, Lee? You know, when I first started out a few years ago, I knew all the guys and had been locked up with them for years, and some of them were married and I knew about their wives. A few of them were divorced when they came home, and some of us were single. But in our reunions, I kept hearing about these stories, these romance stories, and it's just incredible. I thought Hollywood couldn't write a script like that.

Nobody would think it was real, but it was real. And so I thought, somebody needs to do that. Well, nobody was, and we were getting so old that I thought, it's better get done quickly. So I decided to go after it and had written some books before, and this was very different. So I reached out and found out through some friends that Greg would be an ideal co-author to help me get it more romantic.

And sure enough, he did. Well, that's great. I'm glad you guys got together.

And I'm excited not only about our talk, but also encouraging so many people to read this because it's going to be exciting for them as well. You know, tell us about your background growing up that led you to becoming a combat fighter pilot. Well, I grew up on a farm in the 50s down in Georgia, kind of a red clay farm.

We grew cotton corn, wheat, no hay and all that kind of stuff, raised some animals. And, you know, I started working very early and I started plowing a mule about the same time I started driving the cars and tractors at about age 11. But out there in the fields, I'd look up and I'd see these airplanes. And it just happened that my parents took me to the Veterans Memorial Park in Athens, Georgia, when I was about five, six or seven somewhere in there. And I climbed up on the wing of a World War Two fighter plane and I thought, oh, this is me. It just felt like I was home.

And so as I'm out there plowing that mule looking up, I keep thinking, well, someday I got to do that. And so when I graduated from high school, I went to the University of Georgia and got in Air Force ROTC. Now, I was probably one of the worst students that ever graduated in four years from the University of Georgia. But I was a distinguished graduate and the number two person in my class in Air Force ROTC. And three days after I got my, had my last class, I reported to Valdosta, Georgia, to Moody Air Force Base for flight school. 53 weeks later, I got my wings and an assignment that said, and this was August 1966 and the war in Vietnam is starting to build up.

My assignment was F4 pipeline, Southeast Asia. So as quick as I could get combat qualified, I'd be going to war. Wow.

Wow. Man, that's a fascinating story in itself. So take us to Vietnam. What was your experience as a pilot there? Well, as a pilot, and I was a young pilot and back then the Air Force had two pilots in the Air Force. So I was in the back seat flying with some more experienced guys sometimes and sometimes some guys who had flown tankers and bombers that were not really quite as well, they'd been checked out in the Air Force, but they weren't quite as well equipped for it mentally and from experience. But I quickly caught on and started flying with the wing commander and one of the aces from the Korean War who was our group commander.

I was doing really well and loving the flying part as I, you know, it's exciting and challenging. It was dangerous. And we got shot at almost every mission. But I thought theoretically from a perspective of how to operate a war, the things that we were doing, it was all being our targets will be in control from Washington, D.C. from civilians who didn't know anything about winning the war. And very quickly, I saw through that. And as many most everybody did. But, you know, we're going to do what we're told to do and our leaders are going to figure it out.

So we did. And then on my fifty third mission over North Vietnam, my airplane was blown up and I had to parachute out. I will say that I had flown close air support for the Army and the Marine Corps in the northern part of South Vietnam where they were fighting the war and also some interdiction missions where we blew up roads and bridges over in Laos because they were kind of coming around the corner of North Vietnam where the DMZ was.

And they would go into Laos over there and come down and come back into South Vietnam, calling the supplies and troops into the south where they were launching them into guerrilla type warfare later became a full warfare. But my fifty third mission was the day I got blown out of the sky. I had my airplane blew up and I just had to jump out and take the parachute out and do the parachute landing. And they captured me within about two minutes.

Wow. That had to be ultra traumatic emotionally. Well, you know, we were well trained.

And if you're a pilot, you're always one or two steps away from dying, especially a fighter pilot. So I was consciously doing my exactly executing my procedures until I was captured. And that point, that's when the trauma hit. Now, I grew up in a strong Christian home, had gone to church every Sunday and Sunday nights and been involved in reading the Bible and memorizing Bible verses growing up. And so almost every POW talks about regardless of how connected they had been to the Lord, they reconnected usually in their parachute coming down or about two seconds after they got captured. I didn't that didn't happen to me. I was executing and I was thinking. But once I was captured, the trauma hit and I was just hanging on there for a little bit. I thought they were going to kill me right away.

They didn't. It turns out that the guy in charge of taking me north toward Hanoi to a drop off station on the way, a drop off was actually a strong Christian. It was a militia guy and he didn't have any choice but to work for the communists there because they control that country. But he protected me from getting beaten up and badly hurt and even killed by the local populace. He used his guards to keep them from coming in and beating me up.

And that was very unusual. But I started praying a lot and I just knew that I was still alive and that God had a plan for me and I just need to do my part. Thanks for joining us for Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman. He's the author of the New York Times bestseller "The 5 Love Languages" . Authors Lee Ellis and Greg Godek are joining us. Their book is our featured resource at It's titled Captured by Love, Inspiring True Romance Stories from Vietnam POWs.

Find out more at Lee, how long were you a prisoner of war? Five years, four months and two weeks. Almost five and a half years. Wow. Wow.

But who's counting, huh? You know, it's hard for me even to wrap that or my mind around that, you know. Now how did you survive that experience over that extended period of time? You know, there were several parts to it. One, we were, I was in good health and didn't have any bad injuries and I was safely, they did not want us to die. The communists wanted prisoners. They wanted hostages that they could use to negotiate with and that sort of thing. So they would torture you, but they didn't want to let you die. They wanted to keep you alive. So they would stop just short. But in those early days, you just, you had to work minute to minute, hour by hour, day by day.

You know, once you made it through a day, you said, okay, I'm going to rest and there'll be another day tomorrow to make it through. Because we were mostly all fighter pilots and I was usually about the youngest guy in the camp. There were only two guys younger than me and they were three or four months younger than me. So I had just turned 24 when I was captured.

And so the average age was 30 and a half. Well, somebody who's 30 and a half has a lot more resilience and life experience than somebody who's 18 or 19 years old, like has happened in so many of the wars. And so we had leaders and teammates that were more experienced, more stable, and very committed, but very committed to our mission of being faithful to our country and to our comrades who were captured and resisting the enemy. So that was kind of our key focus.

We'd all memorized the code of conduct, six articles about being faithful to your country and your teammates and all that. So we worked hard to do that. And the great thing was our leaders were quite a bit older. Some of our key leaders were quite a bit older, more experienced, and very, very tough. And they, they learned to adapt pretty quickly to be both very kind to us and very tough to the enemy. But they set an example, and their courage and resistance to the enemy set an example for all of us. And we wanted to be live up to what they were doing. And I had a leader in my in my first eight months, I was in a cell that was six and a half by seven feet with three other guys. And my, my guy there was an incredibly courageous, strong person of good character. And he set an example for me.

And I wanted to follow that example. Yeah, yeah. Wow. Now talk talk a moment about the release after five plus years as a prisoner of war. What was it like to get on the plane coming home? Well, one thing I want to say is the work of the wives and families back home, they started to put pressure after being quiet for two or three years, they came alive, got united, put pressure on our own government to change its policy to put pressure on the communists about our treatment, because they were not violent, they were violating the Geneva Conventions on treatment of prisoners. And so when Ho Chi Minh died in September 1969, that was a communist president and founder of North Vietnam, the new leaders came in and stopped the torture. So from 1970, 71, 72, we were living generally, there was no torture going on. And we got because of a raid on one of the camps, we got all moved into large cells back into Hanoi into the Hanoi Hilton. And now we were locked up with 40 to 60 guys for a couple of years.

And we had no books or anything. But we started having classes, we had church on Sunday, we had a choir. And we use that time to get healthy, because we were if we'd come home, you know, two, three years earlier, we've been a mess, psychologically and emotionally. So we came home in very healthy condition, very low PTSD rate much lower than our comrades who fought in the south for a year. So we came home very healthy and very ready to move forward. And one of the things that came became clear to me as I looked at all of my wife's a licensed counselor, so she's a lot of marriage counselor, and I'm a human behavior coach, was that our guys had done well, they had been stable, they had had great marriages, and all of this. And that's what really impressed me of how we've been so stable and so healthy in our relationship since we come home.

And that's why I started, you know, additionally to have the book. Yeah, right. Well, you mentioned your wife. Now, how did you and Mary meet? Well, when I came home, I was one of the single guys.

And, you know, fighter pilots have a good eyeball for girls. And I dated a lot of girls, really nice girls, beautiful, wonderful. But I didn't fall in love.

And they didn't fall in love with me. And so I kept dating and kept dating. And I got reassigned after I got we qualified for flying, I became an instructor pilot right after I came home. I've been on the ground for six years. But it came back to me and I became an instructor pilot and went back to Valdosta, Georgia. On Friday evening, it was Memorial Day weekend of 1974.

Now, most all of my buddies have got met somebody and got married, but I was still single. And I was at the officers club on Friday night, and I was gonna go over there and have dinner and go to the we had a music in there in a bar. And I was gonna sit around in there.

And sure enough, these two girls come walking in. And so I turned to the guy sitting next to me and I said, I'll see you later. I'm gonna go dance with her.

Well, I did. And then we started talking and I started dating her. And pretty soon I could see that she was probably the one. And we fell in love.

We fell in love. And she was 27. And I was 31. And she'd been married and had two kids.

And that was not what I wanted. But I just knew she was the one. And, you know, I said, you know, intuition and observation go together. And I just sensed that she was a person of great character. She was the right one. Well, we started dating and we went to church together. We realized that spiritually we had a connection by values, we had a connection.

And so I proposed and we got married in December. And that story is in the book, by the way, and you'll see that my strong-willed mind, I didn't listen very carefully. She was trying to tell me that we shouldn't get married four days before Christmas.

That wouldn't be a good idea. But she didn't know that with Lee Ellis, just get right in his face and talk real bluntly and loud. And he will just listen real well.

But if you just kind of mumble something and softly say it, he probably won't even hear it. How old were you at that point? 31. Yeah, great. Now, we're going to get to Greg in just a minute, but I want to ask you one closing question. And that is, when you were a prisoner of war, did you ever have a moment or a time in which you felt like you're just giving up hope?

No, never. I always believed that tomorrow is another day. And, you know, to be a fighter pilot, you've got to be positive.

You've got to believe in what you're doing. And I had people around me who were like that. Now, some of the guys were in solitary confinement for months, some for years. But we generally we had covert communication to encourage them and let them know, we care about you, we're not going to leave without you. So we, in our relationships, were able to keep that mindset of someday we're going to go home. We just got to endure this.

And that became our way of life, to be honest with you. Well, Lee, thanks for sharing your personal story with us. We want to spend some time now with Greg. And then we're going to come back to you and Greg together as we get toward the end of the program. Greg, let me turn to you. And you've written a number of books about romance and love.

How did that come about? Well, I had a girlfriend when I was in first grade, you see. And no, I am just one of these people that's naturally couple oriented.

I've been better. And I think most people, we are better when we're in a couple than we are by ourselves. And somehow I intuited this when I was young. And, and I've always been romantic. I just had no problem with being with girls and expressing. And in about 1981, I stumbled into teaching a course for the Boston Center for adult education, called 1001 ways to be romantic. Now, at first, it was for men only.

Does that seem, you know, reasonable. But after a year, two women came up to me after the class and demanded to know why women were excluded. And I was I was really surprised.

I didn't think women needed it or but but come, you know, come to the class. And that changed everything. Because as you know, I mean, you know, sure, men and women are different. But when it comes to really core aspects of our personalities and who we are and what we want, we're really so much more similar than we are different.

And and and being romantic, is really about making gestures that are specific to your partner. And so anyway, the class grew and grew. I mean, I had a real job way back then. And then after a decade, through some various things around speaking and presenting, I decided to write the book. It's at first I wrote 100, about 100 pages. And it just wasn't coming together. So I set it aside. And then I had one of these blinding flashes of the obvious. Number it, just number the items. You know, it doesn't flow like like a regular book. And I honest goodness from that from day one, it was always called 1001.

But I may be the only person who ever actually take that phrase literally. Well, I'm glad you did. You know, as you begin the work of all these stories from prisoners of war, what did you encounter that was special or unique about these people? The biggest thing that struck me that that was unique, it was the intensity of their experiences. I mean, you know, we all have everybody has challenges in life. Okay.

And you know, we all need other people's help. But these guys, I mean, this was a crucible. I mean, it's just like, most hardly anybody in the whole world's ever experienced what these guys have experienced. And yet, this subgroup of POWs came back.

I mean, as Lee said, I mean, these guys were healthy, mentally healthy and well adjusted after going through literal hell. One of the biggest surprises, I think, was as we were writing these stories, you know, the goal here was just to tell their stories. So part of each guy's story, you know, there are 20 of them here. So each guy, you know, there's parts about their POW experience, and then coming home and resuming a marriage or coming home and getting married.

And, and those are those two stories, you know, we've together. But take a step back. These are top gun guys.

This is like Tom Cruise. Okay. These are top guns. You know, they're not little sweethearts.

Okay. But going through being tortured and torn down, what came out of the stories, I mean, this was an organic thing was like, that the skills that these guys had to have, and the lessons that they learned there are exactly the same skills that people need to have a successful, happy long term relationship. Number one is communication, the importance of communication.

Well, you know, in broad terms, men are not as good as communicators as women are. These guys were great communicators, and, you know, sharing and sharing your feelings. I mean, these are, you know, these tough guys, but, you know, going through what they did, they were all, you know, in pain and suffering and starving and, you know, all kinds of things. And they took care of each other when they were sick and they, and they, you know, and stayed in communication.

That's just what blows me away that you kind of strip away the macho stuff and I'm so cool and all that. And it still was about communication. It still was about camaraderie.

It still was about having faith. We're hearing stories of love amidst the backdrop of war today on Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman. Our guests have written the book Captured by Love, inspiring true romance stories from Vietnam POWs. You can find out more about it at Lee Ellis and Greg Godek are with us.

Again, go to We're going to get back to Colonel Ellis here in a minute. Greg Godek is up on deck and we're talking with him about his part in writing that book Captured by Love. You know, Greg, in these 20 stories, I want to ask you this question, a practical question. How did you collect the details for these stories from the veterans? Phone and Zoom and one in person. Okay.

Yeah. Lee put me in touch with them and long conversations and wonderful. I could tell you every guy, gal, some of them were widows.

One of them was a son. They were so engaging. This became much more than a book project.

And let's put this together. The stories were just so amazing. I mean, I mean, every one of these 20 stories, there are elements of it where you stand back and you go, no, no. How could you survive that? And, you know, how could you come back and be normal? I mean, Lee mentioned, you know, there were some guys that were in solitary for over a year. Solitary confinement literally drives people insane.

And these fellows came through. I think one of the really fun, surprising things was their use of humor. Humor. This is a big skill for relationships too, right? You can't laugh at yourself.

And if you can't laugh together, I don't think your marriage is going to be very happy. We'll probably talk about that a little later, but honest to goodness, some of the things that these guys did. Yeah. Now, were there other surprises that you uncovered in discussing, you know, their experience and their marriage experience then later on? One of the surprises was that while these guys shared so much, that they're all really unique individuals.

And that, you know, sure you can talk about them in certain generalities and so on, but you get talking with them and, you know, this guy is so funny, you know, and he's, and they can talk. Here's the surprise. Every single one of these guys said, I would never have chosen to go through that, but I wouldn't change a thing. Can you imagine? I can't imagine that they did not come back resentful. That surprised me. I don't think I could do that.

You know, Lee mentioned, you know, he doesn't hold any grudges against the Vietnam people that I understand, but overall, a couple of the guys have gone back to Vietnam and met their captors. I don't know if I could do that. Isn't that amazing? That's a lesson in forgiveness. I mean, goodness gracious.

Forgiving your wife for, you know, like having a hard time, but then there's forgiving a person who whipped you. Yeah. Yeah. That's powerful. That's powerful.

Yeah. Now for the couples that are listening to us, how would these stories help and inspire them? After every story. So every story has a love lesson. After it, we have lessons about the importance of companionship. Second one is having common values and a shared faith. Another one is respect. I mean, it's just just, you know, everyone needs to be respected. It's just, it's a, you know, human thing.

Well, you know, there are captors just, you know, just squash that. So it was up to each other to hold each other up. Trust, optimism. Lee mentioned optimism. You know, fighter pilots have to be optimistic. They think they can do anything, you know, and even even when they're training here in the U.S. on those jets, their lives are in danger.

Like every second they're up there in the air. So, you know, there's, you know, optimism carries people through. I mentioned humor and also the importance of being authentic. Lee touched on this, but it's like, you know, you're in a cell with another guy that's, you know, the cell is as big as a closet. There's no hiding. You're, you're, you know, when you're afraid, you express that you're afraid, you know, when you feel, you know, very close to the other guys. Like, thank you so much.

I, you know, I don't think I could have gotten by this without you. You don't hold back on that. Yeah. Yeah. And I think now that is, that comes back to kind of the, you know, not being so macho kind of a thing. Yeah. I hear you saying that as you listen to these stories, you yourself were encouraged and challenged by some of these characteristics that you discovered. Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. Like really to me, the big one, I mentioned like forgiveness.

I'm not sure how far I can go and forgiveness, but you know, I expect that I won't ever have to go through torture. I'll just have, you know, little spats with my wife. I think I can, you know, compared to those guys, I can get through anything, you know, that, you know, that is one thing, um, like I said, the, the importance of humor, I mean, my wife and I, and it's like, sometimes, you know, we say, this is our life, this sitcom, cause we just share so many things in common, the same sense of human laugh at the same things, we finish each other's sentences and, and to hear so many similarities with these other fellows. Another interesting thing about humor is that in any person's life, the closer to tragedy and death you are, I mean, doctors, nurses, police, military people, firemen, women, the closer you are to death, the darker your humor gets. And it's a survival mechanism. And it, you know, it's a, it's a curious, interesting thing because it becomes inhuman, you know, behind the scenes is like, my wife has been a nurse to hear some of the things that they laugh about.

But, but if you don't, you won't survive, but it's, you know, it's a lot of humor that you just can't share with the outside world because they would think you're an awful person. Yeah, yeah. I hear you.

I hear you, man. I want to bring Lee back into the conversation and want both of you guys to respond to some of these questions. We know that some of the men who actually were prisoners of war were married. And do we have any idea how many of those marriages actually survived all of this? I think there is some, the Mitchell Institute at the Navy base in Pensacola was assigned, after a couple of years, they were assigned to be responsible for all the health and mental care of POWs follow-up.

And mainly it was to gather data, although they gave us physical exams and we got psychological testing and all that, but it was to monitor us, but it was also to gather data. And, uh, as I recall, the POW divorce rate, uh, of coming home was about the same as the general public, uh, when we came home. So, uh, yes, some of the guys that wives had moved on and a couple of them went to Mexico and got divorced and a couple of them just on their phone call, when we got to the Philippines that the hospital there at Clark air base, and we called home and a couple of them, their wives said, Hey, I'm out of here.

You know, I want a divorce when you get back, I'm ready to move on. Cause they had been husbands and being gone six years and now they've decided to move on. And most of those situations were the, the marriage was not as strong as it probably could have been and should have been. So, but then the other group, uh, of course, and some of those are in the stories that we have, and they're just amazing how they met the right one and now they've been married 49 years.

So, uh, and then the, some were married and their families were waiting on their wives were waiting on them and they'd been married in the sixties and some were single like me and met someone when we came home. Yeah. Right. Right. Some of the stories, most of them are just so inspiring and there's some are heartbreaking.

I mean, here's the short part from one fellow here. Um, these are his words after being separated for five years, anything could have happened, but I was looking forward to being the best husband ever, but I did have this thought. If she doesn't cry when we talk, I'm in big trouble.

She didn't cry. Um, but later he said, Hey, I may have lost my wife, but I had regained my life. Well, it's like, Whoa.

Yeah. That's powerful. That's powerful. This is Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman. Again, our featured resource today is the book by Lee Ellis and Greg Godec captured by love, inspiring true romance stories from Vietnam POWs. Find out more at our website, Building As both of you know, I'm big on the love languages.

All right. Now I want to ask this personal question in your interviews with any of these prisoners of war, did they love language concept come up? And if so, can you just give me an illustration of that?

Well, I think it, it, it came up and for me, this is Lee. It came up for me in a lot of ways because, uh, uh, over the last few years I've learned a lot about love languages because, uh, one personally with my wife and me, we're very different. I love language and that's been very helpful to us, but also, uh, in workplace, I've been working with leaders for more than 27 years, but I know that people are wired differently. And so you have successful leaders that are introverts and some that are extroverts.

And, uh, it one, either one either way, you can be a great leader, but you have to learn to adapt. And so what I have been teaching people for many years is that you have to learn to adapt to the other person. You can't rewire them. You can't make the person who likes to talk and make fun about and joke about things.

You can't rewire them. You have to, uh, accept them for who they are and you adapt and listen to them, uh, some and not try to interrupt them all the time or vice versa. My wife and I are totally opposite.

We're three standard deviations apart on patients. Uh, she's a reserved person. I'm an outgoing person. I'm more like the take charge. I want to be dominant and in control. She's more cooperative.

So we're opposites on everything. She's very organized. I work at it to get organized.

So we had to learn to adapt. And, uh, you know, there's a saying, uh, that I use in the book that somewhere I picked up and I don't know where it is, but it fits your five love languages also is to give the dog what the dog wants to eat. Uh, we, we talk about the platinum rule doing to others that they would like to be done unto. And I've had leaders say, well, wait a minute, I'm the boss. They should be doing unto me the way I like it. And I said, sure they should, but you relate to them in a way that they like to be related to.

They're going to perform much better. They're going to think more of you. So a big part of our stories kind of came back to, uh, each one had learned to adapt, to give to the other person the way they like it. Yeah. That's, that's so important in a marriage.

Absolutely. Greg, Greg, let me ask you this. Uh, uh, you found some amazing romantic encounters, uh, in, in interviewing all these couples. Can you just talk about maybe one or two of those that just, uh, of how they came together after it was all over? Uh, the most amazing one, one of the POW wives, um, Carol Hickerson, she was married and her husband, uh, was declared MIA missing in action. So she did not know his fate for years. And over, over several years there were some indications, but no proof that, that he had died for sure. So she's hanging on here.

And it was only when the men came back in 1973 that she found out that for sure he had died. Okay. So about a month later, there's this huge celebration for all the veterans, um, thrown by Ross Perot down in Dallas at the cotton bowl. We're talking tens of thousands of people there. And she was not going to attend. It was too sad, but her mother kicked her butt and she went, so she ends up sitting next to, she has a date, but it's just a friend date. And on her other side was another POW who had lost his wife and they're sitting there and, and the performers was Tony Orlando and Dawn, and they were introducing the song tie a yellow ribbon.

Okay. Which you became an anthem, you know, for, for the veterans. And she is sitting there crying and this, this, the other, uh, the new POW Jim, Jim Hickerson, he just leans over and gives her a little peck on the cheek.

Just kind of a friendly thing. And out of that grew a relationship and they ended up marrying. And Tony Orlando still to this day, attend some of the POW reunions.

I mean, he is a great supporter and he calls those to the honeymooners and they stayed in touch for decades. Uh, that is powerful. Uh, Lee, talk about the spiritual dimension of all of this. Uh, you mentioned that a little bit, but, uh, how big of component was the spiritual part of this experience? And did you find that a belief in God was important, uh, in, in the lives of many of those guys in the POW camps? You know, you have a lot of free time and we spent a lot of time in prayer. God said, hadn't been to church in a long time. Uh, we're connected with the Lord. All of a sudden we're praying for hours at a time during the day because you realize that you're not in control, that there's a power over you and that, you know, most several had grown up enough in a Christian or Jewish worldview that we knew that God existed and cared about us. And so that relationship became very strong. And then, uh, in the stories here, what was interesting was that I decided I'd written two books for Moody publishing and, uh, I could have made this a Christian book probably, but I decided that this book needed to be broader, more general.

And, but as it turned out, almost every chapter, every story in the book emphasizes the role of faith in the couple's relationship and for keeping them together and being so important to each one of them. Yeah. Yeah. I certainly would think that that would have been true. An interesting take on that. One of our stories is titled Beshert, which is, we had this footnoted in the book.

Beshert is Hebrew for soulmate or the one person whom an individual is divinely destined to marry. Okay. So one of these fellows, Tom McNish, he was single in the camps. And so he spent a lot of time fantasizing and creating the perfect wife for himself. This is six and a half years.

Okay. And here were the specs that he came up with. She would be Christian model, tall, a striking brunette, an optimist, never been married, no kids, treasured family. And he would make no commitment with any woman, no matter how perfect until at least one year after his return. So he comes back home and less than one month after his release. Here's Tom's ideal woman.

Five feet, two and a half inches, blonde, Jewish, a self-described realist, not an optimist, previously married, not only family oriented, but already had two daughters. Right. The best laid plans of mice and men. Right. But they both had this deeper soul connection. And, you know, as you can hear, you know, he's Christian, she's Jewish.

A lot of people, you know, can't make that work. And they were able to, which is really inspiring. Yeah.

Yeah. They're one of the best, closest relationships I've ever seen in a married couple. And I've been to their house and they say a blessing before every meal. So faith has remained very strong for them. And they're just a wonderful couple.

Yeah, that's exciting. You know, one common thread in the book is resilience. How do you think these POWs and their wives, if they were married and their families, how did they endure all of that? One thing from the POW camp was we realized that the human body physically is much more resilient than we would have ever imagined. So we were able to live on the minimum amount of food and protein and all those kind of things and get through it.

And we're outliving our peers now. And that was, I'm talking about five to eight year POWs. And psychologically, we were strong and we worked to stay strong.

We kind of worked to coach ourselves to develop. So I think that was a big part of it. You know, I think one of the most impressive things to me is when you read those stories, you see those women raising kids, two, three, four children without their husbands, sometimes without knowing if their husband is dead or alive for years. And their resilience was so amazing, but a lot of it had to do with their faith. And then they got connected with other people who were going through similar stuff. When the League of Wives and then National League of POW MI Families, they got connected with folks who had been through hard stuff and were going through the same stuff that they were just like we had in the POW camp.

And that helped them become more resilient. What is your hope as to how this book is going to help inspire other couples in terms of their personal relationships? I think one of the most important things is commitment. The POWs were committed, the wives back home were committed. And when we married or remarried, coming home, we've been committed and had long lasting relationships. I think the faith and commitment were the best things of all.

And that brought in the companionship. I expected this book will help people be positive about their relationships and to look up, not down, not back. And a little known thing here, which I think is very important, and this reflects this, is that you can all picture the POW MIA flag, right? It's white on black, and it's got the profile of the prisoner looking downward. Well, only recently, I don't even know who, one of the guys in the POWs, somebody redesigned that so that the man is looking upwards.

It's the same design, but he's looking up, which is just, I think, gives me chills. And I think that is a great way for people to look at their relationships. We're not looking down here. You know, we had hard times, but it's like, we are here. We are back. We are looking forward. Well, it's true. Every couple will have difficulties, but yeah, you're right.

Looking up rather than looking down. Listen, Lee and Greg, I want to thank you guys for being with us today and for spending the time to put this book together of all of these wonderful stories. And I hope that our listeners will go out and get the book and read it because it will not only encourage you, but it will also help you encourage others. So thanks again for being with us today. Thank you. Thank you, Gary. Great to be with you. What an inspiring conversation with Colonel Lee Ellis and Greg Godek today. If you go to the website,, you'll see that featured resource, Captured by Love, inspiring true romance stories from Vietnam POWs. Again, find out more at And coming up next week, is joy something you're born with or can you cultivate it in your life? Marcus Warner and Chris Corsey join us in one week. A big thank you to our production team, Steve Wick and Janice Backing. Building Relationships with Dr. Gary Chapman is a production of Moody Radio in association with Moody Publishers, a ministry of Moody Bible Institute. Thanks for listening.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-10-27 00:55:51 / 2023-10-27 01:13:23 / 18

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