On Hatteberg’s people, as we observe Memorial Day, one family who served our country looks back 30 years to a time of great sadness followed by jubilation. Paul Montague was a Marine helicopter pilot in Vietnam. Over three decades later his story lives as a testament to sacrifice for both he and his family.
Paul Montague was a Kansas farm boy, born and raised in Anthony. Paul wanted to serve his country and joined the Marines doing two tours as a helicopter pilot in Viet Nam. Then on March 28th, 1968, in a helicopter like this one, Major Paul Montague was shot down over Viet Nam.
“It just crushes your whole life.”
To the rest of the world, including his wife Shirley – Paul was dead.
“When they come and tell you he’s gone, you think you know he’s gone.”
But on the other side of the world Paul was very much live…but in deep trouble. He was surrounded by North Vietnamese soldiers.
“And with that there were about four or five NVA (North Vietnamese Army) right on top of us.”
He was captured and taken along the Ho Chi Minh trail to a number of POW camps.
“We figured we had been reported dead, so that wasn’t any big surprise.”
Over the course of months and years, he finally ended up at the infamous Hanoi Hilton where other POW’s were being held.
“Let’s face it that was a ‘hell’ in its own right. I wasn’t any superman, I could break very easily and they found how to break me.”
At home, his death now in the headlines, Shirley attended his Memorial service, ready to live out her life alone raising three children. Then, five years later a miracle.
“When the peace treaties were signed and they put a list of the POW’s, the military called me and told me he was on the list.”
In March of 1973 Paul was released from captivity and reunited with his family. There were parades in his hometown, speeches, interviews and the difficult task of getting to know his wife and family again.
“So, there were physical changes, mental changes.”
“He looked like an eighty-year-old man.”
“So I was very shocked at that.”
For Paul, it was his faith in God that got him through all of it.
“Believe me; He made himself known for the two to three years (in solitary). He was the only person I had in my cell with me.”
Now, he is a lifetime away from that prison camp. He and his wife are living quietly in Rose Hill. Shirley making beautiful hand-made greeting cards, that’s her hobby – and Paul, loves to watch old movies…even war stories.
Viet Nam was a long time ago, but for Paul, these images hold no special meaning. He was just a guy doing a job the best he knew how.
“You gotta pay the price! Only then can you enjoy the freedom.”