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Former POWs discuss McCain's personal side

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Posted: Wednesday, September 24, 2008 12:00 am

Whenever Thomas Moe sees Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain on TV, he is reminded of the time he spent as a prisoner of war, when a "thumbs up" from McCain would help him make it through the day, he said.

Moe, who was imprisoned in a cell next to McCain during the Vietnam War, was one of three speakers who led a rally of about 60 people Tuesday at the Alachua County Republican Party's campaign headquarters on North Main Street.

The rally was one of seven stops in Florida on the Victory 2008 bus tour, a release stated.

The tour has already rolled through other states, including Ohio and Virginia.

Moe said the purpose of the tour is to show a more personal side of McCain.

Other speakers were Orson Swindle, McCain's former cellmate, and Charles E. "Buddy" Roemer, a former governor and congressman from Louisiana, who met McCain during his political career in Washington, D.C.

As prisoners of war in Hanoi, Vietnam, Moe told the crowd that he and McCain communicated through a hole in the wooden door that Moe had dug with a piece of wire he had found.

It was through this hole that Moe said he could sometimes see McCain giving him a thumbs up.

"That's the vision I have of him," Moe said. "It's a little, simple story, but it tells a lot about a person under horrible conditions."

Swindle told the audience that he slept in a bed next to McCain for 18 months at the end of the Vietnam War.

"We were fighter pilots," Swindle said, reminiscing about his days in the military with McCain. "Good looking. Studly. We flew planes."

Swindle encouraged the audience to speak positively about McCain to others - especially young Americans, who he said tend to vote based on emotion, giving Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama an advantage.

He said he believes McCain stands out as a presidential candidate for his wisdom, experience, character and integrity, and he spoke against Obama's lack of experience.

"He's an empty suit," Swindle said.

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