VIENNA - During 16 months spent as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam, former U.S. Air Force pilot Ken Wells said the thing that sustained him most was his faith and acceptance of God.
On Friday evening, Wells spoke at Ohio Valley University before a group of students and visiting veterans about his experiences during the Vietnam War, including ejecting from his F-4 fighter and being captured by enemy soldiers a day later.
"I had a good foundation in my faith in God but that made it much stronger," Wells said of his experiences. "I think it affects me even today and how I look at life and appreciate life and my family."
Photo by Wayne Towner
Ken Wells, a former U.S. Air Force pilot and POW during the Vietnam War, spoke about his experiences and his faith in God during a Veterans Day program Friday at Ohio Valley University in Vienna.
Harry Ogletree, director of spiritual enrichment at OVU, said Wells spoke to the college's students and staff Friday morning during the daily chapel program - along with Friday evening's public program - to celebrate Veterans Day, which falls on Monday.
Wells spoke in the Roberts Chapel in the Stotts Administration Building on OVU's Main Campus, sharing his experiences as a prisoner of war between December 1971 and March 1973 in Vietnam.
"I knew I would never get through it alone. I knew God was with me," Wells said of the months he spent as a prisoner of war.
That faith was one of the things that sustained him. Wells said he spent a lot of time thinking about his family and praying for them, but he didn't worry for them, accepting that they were in God's hands.
"No matter where you are, you can talk to God through prayer," Wells said, adding he knew that and had prayed while going Mach 2 with his eyes open while flying his jet.
A sense of community was another important factor for Wells and his fellow POWs. At the time of his capture, the Vietnam War was seven years old and some of the prisoners he met had been in captivity for nearly that long.
The POWs worked hard to maintain communications and that sense of community among themselves, risking punishment and torture if they were discovered.
In 1973, the Vietnam War ended and the POWs held with Wells were sent home. Following his release, Wells returned to the U.S. to reunite with his wife, Candy, and the 16-month-old son who was born four days after his capture.
"That was pretty exciting," he recalled.
A native of Washington state, Wells remained in the U.S. Air Force until 1978 when he began his airline career. He retired in 2005 as a captain with Delta Airlines. He now lives near Memphis, at Collierville, Tenn.
Wells said he gives programs about his experiences like Friday's event at OVU about six times a year at schools, churches and organizations, for audiences of all ages. He came to OVU at the invitation of college President Harold Shank, who has preached in the past at the Tennessee church Wells attends.
Wells said he enjoyed the programs at OVU on Friday, including meeting with the students in the morning and members of the public in the evening.
"It's a beautiful setting and a beautiful campus. The kids are very receptive and seemed to be appreciative of the things I had to say," he said.