'I feel I have a mission to share my message,' Vietnam POW says about his years in captivity

(Source: WIS)
(Source: WIS)

(WIS) - A former Vietnam Prisoner of War held captive for over five years spoke to more than 400 soldiers at Shaw Air Force Base on Friday morning.

Leon Ellis, 74, was held captive nearly 50 years ago and remembers every detail. He was deployed to southeast Asia in July 1967 with the 390th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Da Nang Air Base, Republic of Vietnam and was forced to eject over North Vietnam during his 68th combat mission on Nov. 7, 1967.

Ellis spent his days in a 6.5 x 7 foot cell for the first 9 months where he and others were locked up most of the time. To add insult, he was fed only two times a day and lived with 53 men in one room.

He wrote a book "Leading with Honor" in 2012 that features 14 key leadership principles he learned while being a prisoner during his 5 1/2 years of captivity.

Ellis said he loves giving back to people at the base because visiting and sharing his story keeps him young.

"I feel I have a mission and my mission is to share my message about leading with honor about courage and leading with resilience," Ellis said.

Ellis was released during Operation Homecoming on March 14, 1973 and retired from the Air Force on Feb. 1, 1990.

Despite the brutality of his captivity, Ellis said wouldn't change a thing and that being a prisoner of war made him who he is today.

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