NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (NNS) -- Former prisoner of war (POW), retired Navy Cmdr. Paul Galanti, spoke to Sailors aboard Precommissioning Unit Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) during a POW/MIA observance Sept. 20.
PCU Ronald Reagan Commanding Officer, Capt. Bill Goodwin, introduced Galanti by saying, "I want you to think about your biggest complaint before you walked in here today. If you're like me, after hearing this man speak, I suspect that complaint will seem like nothing at all."
Galanti was shot down over Vietnam and captured while flying his 97th combat mission in June 1966. He remained a prisoner of war, in North Vietnam's infamous Hanoi Hilton, until he was released on Feb. 12, 1973.
During his stay, he spent two years in solitary confinement. Galanti has a different perspective on his imprisonment. "There were a whole lot worse places I could be," he said. "I knew I was getting out sometime, it was just a question of when. We weren't forgotten."
He also learned three important things: "I learned I wasn't as tough as I thought I was; that I was a lot more resilient than I thought I was; and that there's no such thing as a bad day when there's a door knob on the inside."
Galanti expressed how envious he was of the crew. "Ronald Reagan was a great man and this is a great ship," he said. "I envy all of you and wish I could turn the clock back, and start doing this all over again.
Galanti went on to say he was grateful for President Reagan's support for POWs and that his support of the military during his presidency had a profound effect on future military operations.
"Ronald Reagan built up our military forces big time. He forced the old Soviet Union out of business," he said. "The moral of the story is that Ronald Reagan was a friend of our armed forces. This beautiful, haze gray but not yet underway ship you are serving on is the most profound symbol of military power in our country's arsenal."
Goodwin reminded those in attendance that the cost of using that arsenal may be high, but freedom is not free.
"I hope you will take away from your time here a better appreciation for the privilege we have to serve our country, and the debt we owe to those who have paid the price for the freedoms we have today," he said.
For related news, visit the PCU Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) Navy NewsStand page at www.news.navy.mil/local/cvn76.