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K-State Today

March 19, 2013

Never forgotten: Vietnam veterans discuss experiences with Air Force ROTC cadets

Submitted by Communications and Marketing

Three veterans of the Vietnam War, including a former prisoner of war and a K-State alumnus who evaded capture deep inside North Vietnam for three weeks, recently spoke to K-State Air Force ROTC cadets about their experiences.

Retired Lt. Cols. Mike Sloniker and Bill Schwertfeger, members of the Red River Valley Fighter Pilot Association and Oklahoma State University alumni, and retired Col. Roger Locher, a K-State alumnus, met with the cadets to share how their commitments to duty and their country shaped their experiences during difficult circumstances.

Sloniker, who flew helicopters in Vietnam, illustrated the roles of excellence and teamwork as he told of rescue missions he led in response to a North Vietnamese offensive into the South.

Locher was an F-4 weapons system operator. He discussed the hardships and commitments experienced after he was shot down north of Hanoi on May 10, 1972. He was rescued on June 1 — the deepest rescue mission during the entire war.

Schwertfeger was an F-4 pilot who was shot down near Hanoi on Feb. 16, 1972, and was immediately captured. He spent the next 13 months in the infamous "Hanoi Hilton." He talked about the torture sessions he and other POWs endured, and how they maintained their resolve while communicating and keeping faith with each other — all in spite of their captors' efforts to isolate and prevent these small victories. 

The presentations were well-received by the cadets.

"I am grateful for them coming and sharing their stories. They were truly powerful speakers whose messages have impacted the cadets at Detachment 270," said Sam Felts, junior in history from Wichita.

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