‘There’s always hope’: Bay City veteran, prisoner of war shares story

A Bay City army veteran shared his incredible story of survival as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.
Published: May. 20, 2023 at 2:11 PM EDT
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BAY CITY, Mich. (WNEM) - A Bay City army veteran shared his incredible story of survival as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

Prisoners of war from Vietnam are gathering from all over the country to commemorate 50 years since a dinner at the White House. Before one brave Bay City army veteran flies to California on Sunday, May 21 to mark the occasion, he sat down with TV5′s Hannah Jewell to share his story.

Not many people can say they survived as many close calls as Vietnam veteran Robert Hayhurst.

During the war, Hayhurst has been deployed to the city of Hue, in South Vietnam when the North Vietnamese captured the city.

“Fought them off for a day and a half until our ammunition ran out. Two of our guys were dead. Five of us were injured and we had to surrender,” Hayhurst said.

He and 25 other non-Vietnamese captives were separated and sent on a harrowing journey on foot 400 miles through the jungle up the Ho Chi Minh Trail. After 22 days, Hayhurst and his friend, Ed, saw their chance to escape.

“My buddy and I say, ‘This is it.’ So, we took off in the other direction. Jumped in the river, swam across the river, wind up in the jungle on the other side and waited about an hour to see if we were followed. We weren’t followed,” Hayhurst said.

Diving back in the river, battling leeches, they floated until they found an American camp, following a trail of boot prints to a guard.

“He said, ‘What are you guys doing out there?’ I said, ‘We are just coming into your camp!’ […] ‘Well, what are you walking there for?’ […] ‘We are just following your boot tracks.’ He said, ‘We put them there. You just walked through a mine field.’ Isn’t that something, so we’re really lucky, you know?” Hayhurst recounted.

The decorated veteran was honored in Washington DC in 1973, meeting former President Richard Nixon, and reuniting with others who had survived captivity. Now, 50 years later, he will see them again at a ceremony this week in California, where he will also reunite with his buddy Ed, other survivors, and his family.

He said he tells his story to help others believe in themselves.

“There’s always hope. There’s always a way to do things. There’s always a way to get something done,” Hayhurst said.

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