MIDLAND, TX (KWES) - Captain Charles Plumb was a Navy fighter pilot in Vietnam. He visited Midland to talk to Midlanders about his autobiographical book called I'm No Hero. The book discusses Plumb's capture during the Vietnam War.
"I was flying the hottest airplane in the world, the F4 Phantom jet. With one hand, I could pull the pickle on my control stick, I could knock down enemy airplanes I couldn't even see," said Plumb. "I was at the top of my game. In 90 seconds, I went from that position to absolute scum of the earth."
Plumb was shot down just five days he was going to return home. Instead, he was put in a prison camp for six years at the age of 24.
"We were tortured from the beginning for propaganda and military information," said Plumb. "We were in solitary confinement for a long time. Some of the guys were alone for four and a half years."
Plumb and the other captured soldiers created a communication system with each other using Morse code and created a code they were able to write using pencil and paper.
"I received a note that said 'Memorize this code, then eat this paper,'" said Plumb.
Plumb said 591 soldiers came home. From a traumatic experience, they have turned to some of the most successful men in the country.
"Out of those 591 men, we produced 17 generals, seven admirals, two United States senators, a Vice Presidential candidate, a Presidential candidate, John McCain, two ambassadors from our own number," said Plumb. "We're healthier today mentally and physically than we had not been shot down and captured."
Plumb told us the key to moving forward was all about learning how to forgive.
"Being tortured, bleeding from four open wounds, no medical care, I had boils all over my body, down to 115 pounds. I had all this bitterness within me," he said. "In about three months into that experience, I learned to forgive. Not just the Enemy. Forgive the mechanic who put my airplane together. Forgive myself for having surrendered. It's that forgiveness. Obviously it's a Christian thing but it's more than that. It's a survival thing."
Plumb travels around the country to share his story. He hopes he can share encouragement that no matter how tough life can be, dig a little deeper. That's where you'll find hope through the choices you make.
"Life is a choice," said Plumb. "It's not what happens around you. It's the choices you make that happens around you. I think I'm living proof that you can go through a pretty terrible experience, a traumatic experience, and come out a happy, smiling, upbeat positive person if you make the right choices. Regardless of your situation, the challenges you face, you have a choice. You can choose happiness or sadness. Smile or frown. Profit or loss. Health or sickness. Then you can choose to give away all those choices."