I have been celebrating the publication next Tuesday of the paperback edition of Leo Thorsness’s Surviving Hell: A POW’s Journey with a new introduction that I contributed to the book. The book is available from Amazon now and maybe even in a bookstore near you as well.
The book is part memoir, recalling the Medal of Honor mission that Col. Thorsness flew as an Air Force pilot during the Vietnam War and the six years he spent as a prisoner of war in what he calls “a Hanoi hellhole.” The book is also part self-help manual for “peopIe going through tough times,” as Leo writes in the Author’s Note that prefaces the text. “Time heals most things, and we are stronger than we think.”
I read the book when it came out in hardcover and it has continued to echo in my mind since I first read it. Here is one passage in particular that has stuck with me:
In my nearly six years in prison, not a day went by when I didn’t think about and hope for freedom. I daydreamed about it and I night-dreamed about it. I dreamed about it in the indistinct moments that separate sleep and waking. I dreamed about the physical sensation of freedom: how it felt on the body. I dreamed about how freedom might happen: by a daring rescue, by the military defeat of North Vietnam, by a POW exchange.
“In the 35 years since my release from prison,” Leo adds in that Authior’s Note, “I’ve never had a really bad day.” When I spoke with him last month, seeking a few comments I could use to draw attention to the book for this series, he called this the most valuable lesson he had learned as a result of his experience. “When the doorknob is on the inside, it’s a good day,” he said.