Against Their Will

By: Sabrina Wu
By: Sabrina Wu

News of Americans being held against their will really hits home for two local veterans who have been through the experience.

"I was captured in December 1944," said William Bendrick, a retired army staff sergeant, "and liberated April 28, 1945."

Bendrick was 22 when he was captured while fighting in the Battle of the Bulge in World War II.

Kevin Hermening, another local veteran, says he'll never forget November 4, 1979. That's the day scores of militant Iranian students stormed the U.S. embassy in Tehran and took it embassy staff hostage. Hermening was a 20-year-old Marine guard who had only been in Iran three months at the time.

"I was outside in the fresh air for only two hours in 14 1/2 months," remembers Kevin Hermening, who spent more than a year in captivity.

Being held prisoner is something many would find hard to imagine.

"The toughest part of being a prisoner of war," Bendrick said, "is the uncertainty. You don't know from one hour or one day to the next what's going to happen to you."

"There were beatings that occurred quite regularly," Hermening said.

Both say enduring imprisonment is a test of will that is different for each individual.

"A lot of people would say that once that blindfold goes on. Once those handcuffs get slapped on your wrists behind your back, it really comes down to your mental preparedness," Hermening said.

Hermening said he survived by drawing on the discipline drilled into him by the military.

Bendrick said he lived through it by focusing on the wife and daughter he had waiting for him back home and believing he would see them again.

Both men say they hope the prisoners of war in Iraq are being treated properly, according to the Geneva Convention. Among other things, the Convention prohibits torture of prisoners of war, taking hostages, humiliation, and execution without a fair trial.

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