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    Former POW speaks at NMOTC

    Former POW speaks at NMOTC

    Photo By Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Lieberknecht | 170407-N-AO823-045 PENSACOLA, Fla. (April 7, 2017) – Retired Air Force Capt. Guy...... read more read more

    Guy Gruters is a religious man. You would be, too, if you’d been in his shoes, if he had even had shoes.
    As a Prisoner of War during the Vietnam War from 1967 to 1973, the then 1st Lieutenant and hundreds of other POWs of that time were forced to wear tattered rags of pajamas and sandals during captivity. They were beaten. Tortured. Starved.
    For Gruters, there was one constant to surviving.
    “It was absolutely, desperately impossible to live up there,” Gruters said. “And it was impossible to get out of it. The only way we got through it was with prayer. The only way. Well, all of life is really that way.”
    In the last 17 years, Gruters has made a side job out of public speaking. On April 7, he brought his harrowing experiences to Navy Medicine Operational Training Center and spoke to Sailors about faith and leadership.
    The public speaking career wasn’t really planned. He received praise following a speech at the Air Force Academy in the late 1990s, which led to other engagements. Those speaking engagements led to more, and so on. Now, he does 30 to 40 a year with virtually no marketing other than a website (www.guygruters.net) and a book (“Locked Up With God”).
    At the time of his capture, Gruters was one of the two lowest ranking prisoners. He focuses his talks, especially in military sectors, on the importance of leadership and the importance of doing what you’re told.
    “You’ve got to have team players,” he said. “You can’t have everybody making a decision. You’ve got to have somebody making the decisions and others willing to follow. That’s what the military does so well.”
    Even in prison, that leadership was present. Though prisoners were forbidden from speaking, they developed an intricate tap code in order to communicate. One of the first orders Gruters received from Lt. Col. Robbie Risner – the highest ranking officer in his first camp – was that theirs was a God-based resistance, and that they were to do the right thing based on the Code of Conduct.
    “There are two things that can happen to us,” Gruters said of the message he received in prison. “We can get out of here, in which case we’ll return with honor. Or we can die here, in which case we’ll die with honor. Either way is fine for us.”
    “Return with honor” became a unifying mantra for the POWs. It was later the title of a book and a documentary film about the POW experience. It became imperative to maintain that honor because of the beliefs they had developed during captivity. For Gruters, he practiced what he later found out to be called natural contemplate of prayer, or “seeing” God in all things.
    While locked in a concrete cell, he saw little, but what he did see astounded him. The ants. The rats. The single leaf that blew from a vent in his ceiling.
    “I saw God in all of this life,” he said. “We were in desperate conditions. God was our comfort. We learned this in our 20s and 30s. Most people don’t learn this until they’re dying of cancer or heart disease in a hospital in their 60s, 70s, or 80s. That’s when they realize they’re going to die, that they’re really nothing. Well, we knew that we were nothing in our 20s and 30s. We knew that young, so we learned to pray young. That gives you resilience in this world. You’re not worried about anything, because you know God’s in charge.”
    If it sounds like he’s preaching, he is. His nearly six years spent as a POW have deeply affected him, even to this day. He says the happiest time of his life was the last three and a half years he spent in prison, because all he did was pray for hours each day.
    “I saw God in everything by then,” he said.
    Before his capture, Gruters said he was religious but God was “in the distance.” He didn’t have any kind of prayer life until he was essentially forced to have one in captivity. He continues that to this day and says that he is at peace on those days that he prays – which is pretty much every day.
    “God is the teacher,” Gruters said. “You know how the teacher is quiet during the test? Our life down here is simply a test of love.”
    It’s safe to say Gruters has passed this test.



    Date Taken: 04.07.2017
    Date Posted: 04.21.2017 15:24
    Story ID: 231171
    Location: PENSACOLA, FL, US 

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