Vietnam POW shares story once again with American300 Tours

4/13/15 - 21st SPACE WING -  This week Major General Edward Mechenbier, USAF/POW joins the American300 effort once again in supporting our Airmen at Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station and Peterson Air Force Base.  So many stories have been written about the General that instead of creating yet another, we thought we'd share this one from a previous tour: 

Story by 341MW PAO - by A1C Collin Schmidt 

9/26/2013 - MALMSTROM AIR FORCE BASE, Mont. -- The American300 tour visited Malmstrom Air Force Base once again Sept. 19. For this visit, the tour brought along a special guest who served as a fighter pilot during the Vietnam War and was shot down resulting in a six-year imprisonment at the Hoa Lo Prison, better known as the Hanoi Hilton.

Maj. Gen. (ret.) Edward Mechenbier had his share of struggles throughout his military career. For the majority of the time he was held captive, he survived on less than 800 calories a day. The cell he lived in was 7 feet long by 9 feet wide and he shared it with one other inmate.

"Being held at the Hanoi Hilton was one of the most difficult things I have ever had to go through," said Mechenbier. "Even with my time spent in captivity I returned to a normal life. I picked up where I left off, but I still think about the ones who weren't so fortunate. I am glad to be able to share my story with the men and women here and I hope it shows people that no matter what obstacles you may face, you can still overcome and push forward."

The American300 tour's mission is to help instill a "never quit" attitude in service members. Every American300 tour visit brings a new person who has had to overcome tremendous obstacles in order to achieve their goals. Whether it be in sports or combat, the men and women who share their time with the Airmen of Malmstrom always have a story to tell and a message to show that nothing is too difficult to achieve.

Mechenbier's story is about keeping hope and building a resilience in the hard times that can never be broken.

"I have a passion for the people who dedicate their life to defending our country," Mechenbier said. "I was once a young man ready to take on anything. Through the years, I have learned that there will be times when you need a Wingman, when you need someone who can help you through a difficult time in your life. I have also learned that you need to have tough skin and be mentally ready for anything.

"On June 14, 1967, I was shot down during a strike mission on the northeast railroad near Kep [Vietnam]," he added. "I ended up landing on the roof of a building after ejecting from my aircraft and spent five years, eight months and four days in captivity, but who's counting. When I ejected, and during my time in captivity, I suffered crushed vertebrae, broken teeth and dislocated both of my shoulders, so I do know what it feels like to be in pain. Even with all that I have been through, I still consider myself one of the lucky ones."

Machenbier was awarded two Purple Hearts, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, a Meritorious Service Medal, nine Air Medals, two Silver Stars and the Prisoner of War Medal for his service and time in captivity during the Vietnam War.

After separating from the active-duty Air Force in June of 1975 he went on to fly the F-100 and A-7 aircraft for the Air National Guard. He eventually retired from the ANG in 2004 as a major general.

"I want you men and women to know that you [Team Malmstrom members] are important," Mechenbier said. "There will always be hard times. There will always be another obstacle for you to overcome, but I want you to know that you are the key to overcoming it. You can always succeed." 

American300 is an all volunteer 501c3 nonprofit effort lead by Veterans and Patriots who believe in connecting amazing individuals with our Armed Forces Members repeatedly over a span of years.  Through relationships and a better understanding of what is truly possible in life our teams help foster a commitment to being the best we can all be in service to our country, our families and our communities.  For more information on American300 visit: 


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