Next month, at least 135 former Prisoners of War will gather in Collin County to mark 45 years of freedom since their release at the end of the Vietnam War.
Hundreds returned home in 1973. Among them was Frisco’s Col. Bernard Leo “Bunny” Talley, Junior.
The U.S. Air Force pilot was shot down in 1966. He describes evading capture for hours in a rice paddy with leeches clinging to his body before villagers captured him at gunpoint.
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“That was a terrible experience the first 24, 48 hours because everybody was showing their anger over us,” said Talley.
He was held as a prisoner of war in the camp that became known as the Hanoi Hilton for six and a half years.
Talley remembers that time in days.
“I was in there for 2,369 days,” said Talley while pointing to a photo of a Hanoi Hilton cell.
“This was one of the cells I was in, a solitary cell,” explained Talley. “It really got your attention when you’re feeling yourself all alone.”
But 2018 will bring new memories. This year marks 45 years of freedom which will be commemorated with a Vietnam War POW reunion in Frisco in August.
“These guys love each other, they love each other like a family. They are closer in some cases than family because they kept each other alive,” said Scott Dillingham, the volunteer director of the reunion. “They represent the best of our country.”
Dillingham, a freelance writer, wrote a feature on Tally last year for Frisco STYLE Magazine. During his reporting, Dillingham says he realized the 45th anniversary of Talley’s release was coming up. Dillingham volunteered to help organize a national reunion in Frisco. He said he wants to ensure the POW’s sacrifices are not forgotten.
“They went through experiences that none of us could begin to understand and appreciate,” said Dillingham.
Those who do understand will be together again, starting August 15th.
“I’m just looking forward to seeing them and knowing they’re happy and they’re healthy and everything,” said Talley.
“More and more between when I see them again, a lot of them do pass away,” said Talley. “I have a prayer list that would choke you.”
The NAM-POW’s 2018 Return to Freedom 45th Anniversary Reunion will be headquartered at the Omni Frisco Hotel at The Star. It runs from August 15-19th.
The organizers can be reached at POWReunion2018@hotmail.com