Remembrances on this Veterans Day

Ron Bliss soon after his release from a Vietnam prison

High school friends paid the ultimate price

By Phil Riske | Senior Reporter/Writer

John Koblin lived about a block from me in Cheyenne. That’s all I can say because the next thing I knew was he’d been killed in Vietnam. 

That tragic war becomes even more tragic when we learn friends did not come home alive or did not come home when they were scheduled because they were shot down and captured, such as John  McCain.

As a candidate for president, Donald Trump trashed POWs’ stature as heroes

As I got ready to attend a high school reunion, my thoughts were about a high school friend who wouldn’t be there.

Born in Buckeye, Ariz., Ron Bliss grew up in Cheyenne, Wyo., and graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1964.

Bliss, a decorated Vietnam War fighter pilot who also spent 6 1/2 years in the “Hanoi Hilton” POW camp, died in 2005 after a long battle with a rare cancer. He was 61. 

Bliss flew 35 missions over Vietnam before being shot down Sept. 4, 1966.

He was awarded two Silver Stars, one Distinguished Flying Cross, three Bronze Stars, the Presidential Unit Citation, two Purple Hearts, one Air Medal, and a POW Medal.

My late friend’s ordeal, along with that of 19 other U.S. POWs from the Vietnam War, including McCain, was told in the 2000 documentary “Return with Honor.”

Bliss finished law school and went to work for former Watergate Prosecutor Leon Jaworski in Texas.

I had the honor to interview my classmate several years after he came home, and he played down his role as a POW but did say he was tortured.

When Donald Trump unbelievably trashed McCain’s military service and refused to apologize, he deeply insulted all POWs and their families.

And all Ron’s Cheyenne High School classmates.

Bliss’s  widow, Charlene, donated Ron’s Air Force dress uniform, complete with all his decorations, to The Nelson Museum of the West, a museum owned by classmate Bob Nelson.

I had to touch and salute it.

On the wall next to the manikin dressed in blue, are two age-yellowed parchments titled “Rules of the Camp,” one written in Vietnamese, the other in English. Upon his release, Ron took the documents from the wall and secreted them in his clothing.

Rules to be broken, I guess.

To all veterans on this day, I salute and thank you for your service.

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November 2020