KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. — A former prisoner of war, who was held captive longer than any other civilian in the Vietnam War, is being awarded for his service.
40 years after being captured behind enemy lines, Ernie Brace is being honored by his country and the Southern Oregon community.
“I’ve been amazed. I’ve been getting calls from California and Washington. I have people down that I’ve barely met and I have some down that I spoke with at the Marine Corps Ball,” said Brace.
82-year-old Ernie Brace was the longest held civilian prisoner of war in Vietnam. He was serving as a contract pilot when he was captured in Laos in 1965. He was held 7 years and 10 months before going free. During the nightmare, he tapped-messaged to a fellow POW, John McCain.
“We met through the wall, but we didn’t see each other until we got home,” recalled Brace.
Years later, it was McCain who helped push for his friend to be honored for his service.
“Since he’s not military he’s technically not a prisoner of war, he’s an internee…and John said ‘B.S.’” Brace said.
Friday at Kingsley Field in Klamath Falls, the honor came true. Brace was awarded the Purple Heart and POW medals, in front of a standing room only crowd of family, friends, and military.
“It’s amazing. I didn’t realize so many people knew me, or remembered me, let’s put it that way,” Brace said.
Now, Brace’s actions and service are immortalized.