Former POW reflects on anniversary

Published: Feb. 10, 2023 at 8:49 PM EST
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Ted Sienicki was an Air Force Weapon Systems Officer in May 1972, when his F-4 was hit by anti-aircraft fire and he was forced to eject over North Vietnam.

He spent 11 months as a prisoner of war.

This weekend he will be in Hudson, Massachusetts, where the American Heritage Museum is opening a new exhibit on the place where he was imprisoned.

“We’re in some original cells from the Hanoi Hilton,” said Museum President Rob Collings during a recent interview.

Collings said the exhibit doesn’t just recreate the notorious prison. It uses actual materials that were saved when the building was torn down in the 1990s. The exhibit is opening on the 50th anniversary of the day in 1973, when American prisoners were released.

“This is the ultimate story of survival; what these men had to endure was absolutely horrific,” Collings said. “And they did it in service to our country. "

Sienicki has not seen the Hanoi Hilton since he was released almost 50 years ago.

In a phone interview, he told WDBJ7 he doesn’t dwell on his experience as a prisoner of war.

“It’s behind me,” Sienicki said. “It’s behind me completely, because you go to war so people can have a life. And you want to stop somebody from taking away your freedom. When you have your freedom back. Guess what. You have to live it.”

Sienicki and his wife are nearing their 50th wedding anniversary. They have four children and 13 grandchildren, and they moved to Roanoke in 2014 to be near their daughter and her family.

In the years since he arrived in the Roanoke Valley, Sienicki said he has learned about the service and sacrifice of others in western Virginia.

“A lot of people from the Roanoke area showed up when the country needed them, believe me,” he said.