After five years in a North Vietnamese prison camp, Air Force combat pilot Tom Moe was stunned to learn that all along, his young wife and his parents had been part of a campaign to find and free him and other prisoners.
"These are my American patriots," Moe told 20 fellow former prisoners of war and some 40 family members and friends Friday. "These are my heroes."
The director of the Ohio Department of Veterans Services spoke at the annual Former POW luncheon hosted by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs' Salt Lake City office, an event that each year draws fewer and fewer POWs.
World War II veterans are mostly in their 90s, and several of the former POWs die every year. Sixteen of the Utah POWs honored Friday served in that war, two in the Korean war and two in the Vietnam War.
Moe spent five years, alongside Jay Hess of Farmington and Sen. John McCain of Arizona, in Hoa Lo Prison, which the captives derisively dubbed the Hanoi Hilton.
He remained in the Air Force until 1995 and spent six years at Hill Air Force Base. Moe worked on McCain's campaign for the presidency in 2008.
On Friday, he said some of the organizations founded in that era to advocate for the missing are today urging the nation to not forget Bowe Bergdahl of Hailey, Idaho.
Bergdahl, the only known prisoner of war in Afghanistan, was captured by the Taliban in June 2009.
Before the luncheon, Moe said he is pushing for Ohio to join other states in demanding an accounting for Bergdahl. "We want to know from the other side his status," he said.