NORMAN — It was a short walk from the south doors of the Norman High School gymnasium to center court. On this particular day in 1973, Dan Glenn walked slowly, taking in the sight of hundreds of high school students who soon stood and clapped.
This would be as close as many of us would ever come to a hometown American hero. Navy Commander Glenn of Norman was forced to eject from his A-4 warplane over North Vietnam just before Christmas in 1966. He spent 2,266 days in captivity.
On Monday, Glenn will quietly mark 40 years since his release as part of Operation Homecoming on March 4, 1973.
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“I hadn’t really thought about it but you’re right,” said Glenn, who lives part of the year in Colorado and in Norman.
“We’re going to have a reunion toward the end of May that will get us heavily involved,” he said.
Those released in the spring of 1973 arrived home in groups. “We were supposed to go two weeks later but we got moved up and another group moved back,” he recalled.
Glenn has been back to Vietnam three times since his release. He still keeps up with some of his fellow prisoners.
In 1998, on the 25th anniversary of his release, he told me life had given him a second chance.
“Coming back (from prison) was really like a second chance at life. Most people think you’re going to be dead.
“In that second chance you realize some of the things that you may have taken for granted before — things like that this is a good country and a way of life that is worth protecting.”
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After his release, he had various assignments for the Navy until his retirement in 1983. He has been back to Vietnam three times and has worked with Vietnamese students at OU.
Prisoners of war were top of mind for Americans in previous conflicts. Today, they are rare.
“I think the wars we are in right now there is little opportunity to actually capture someone,” he said. “I don’t think the Taliban is interested in capturing anybody.”
Glenn was awarded a 2nd Silver Star for “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity while interned as a Prisoner of War in North Vietnam.”.
He doesn’t plan on anything special to mark the anniversary Monday.
“You know my wedding anniversary is the 8th and I probably better pay more attention to that than my release date,” he said.