Lieutenant Colonel (Ret.) Jay Hess is a 20 year Air Force veteran, serving from 1953 to 1973. Hess was a pilot on the Republic F-105 Thunderchief while stationed in Thailand. In August of 1967 while on a mission, his jet was shot down. Hit by enemy fire while pulling off a target, the airplane caught on fire and went out of control. Hess ejected, and upon landing was unconscious for several hours. “The enemy captured me and that was the beginning of five and a half years in a North Vietnam prison,” said Hess. “I thought about that blue car pulling up in front of the house and my family finding out that I’m not coming home. I kept thinking, I gotta get out of here before that blue car pays my family a visit,” said Hess. “Nothing can equal the joy and excitement of being released from POW camp, being free,” said Hess. “It sounds crazy but the POW experience made me appreciate things in a way that I would never have appreciated them before,” said Hess.
“I ‘m glad for what I had learned but I would never want to go through that again. It’s been an honor to serve!”