(NewsNation) — For those held captive on foreign soil during wartime, Memorial Day can be an especially moving holiday as they remember those who fell in battle.
For many, Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer. But for others, the holiday is a day to remember those who gave their lives to protect our freedom. For prisoners of war, the holiday can hit especially hard.
One group of Vietnam POWs will hold on tight to sweet memories from a reunion held earlier in the week, bringing them together 50 years after they came back home and touched American soil.
In Yorba Linda, California flags waved and people lined the streets as old sports made their way down Main Street. Vietnam veterans filled those cars, making their way to the Richard Nixon Presidential Library for a homecoming, a reunion marking 50 years since they returned from captivity.
While the military band played, former POWs exchanged long hugs, embracing their shared history. None of them were in a hurry to let go, knowing how many of their former brothers-in-arms didn’t make it back from Vietnam and remembering those who did return but passed before the 50-year milestone.
Orson Swindle is an 86-year-old Vietnam veteran and former POW.
“Most of the people that I was closely identified with are now gone. They passed away. There’s a handful of us left now. The younger POWs are here with us and they’re a great bunch of people. When we get together, we don’t dwell on bad things. We just talk about funny things and laugh,” Swindle said.
The event is a chance to see and spend time with those they met a lifetime ago but will remain bonded to forever.
Former Air Force Col. Tom McNish spent six and a half years as a prisoner of war after he was shot down over north Vietnam in 1966.
“What we’re celebrating is our return from captivity and the amazing opportunity to get together with some of my closest friends. You’ll never find a more tightly-welded group of friends because we’ve been through the same hellfire together,” McNish said.
He’s thankful for the blessing of getting to see old friends.
“There’s probably almost half of our folks that came home with us who don’t have the opportunity to do this because we’ve lost them along the way,” McNish said.