Two decades ago, Mike Moeller
was held captive in Iran for 14 months
Last modified at 11:46 p.m. on Friday, April 19, 2002
...LOUP CITY -- Mike Moeller, a retired U.S. Marine warrant officer, received the Prisoner of War medal Friday at the American Legion Post 48 in Loup City for being held captive for 14 months beginning in 1979 in Iran. Col. Reno Bamford, commanding officer with the Naval ROTC Unit at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, presented the medal to Moeller, 51, of Loup City.
Bamford is also in the U.S. Marine Corps
, was raised on a farm west of Kearney and also was a Marine security guard.
"Since I was 2 years old, I knew that I was going to be in the Marine Corps," Moeller
said after the medal was awarded."We still have war in 2002 faced with some of the greatest terrorism we can imagine.We are doing so because we've had such a soft touch to terrorists.We've got to be so tough on terrorists that they don't come to the United States."
was not captured during a declared war, "we felt we were at war -- the war against terrorism."
Shuda is unsure why it took more than 20 years after Moeller
was released to get the medal.
"I'm just really happy to see friends and family here to help me share this moment," Mike Moeller
reported for boot camp on March 7, 1971, and retired almost 21 years later.He was a non-commissioned staff sergeant when he and 51 other Americans were held hostage in Iran for 444 days, beginning Nov. 4, 1979.
Iranian officials threatened to try Moeller
on charges of having had sexual relations with a young Iranian woman.After Moeller
was captured, his
family in Loup City made yellow ribbons to display in town to remind people of him.The United States and Iran agreed on Jan. 19, 1981, to release the hostages.They were freed on Jan. 20, 1981. Moeller was the commander in charge of the Marine security guards at the Tehran embassy and had been there since June 1979.
"That day we were captured, the Marines lost a good part of their self-esteem and confidence," he
said."We were very scared."
They were not as frightened about the possibility of being killed, but "we didn't want to suffer while they did it." Moeller
was held in the embassy's basement for about two months, moved to the ambassador's residence and returned to the embassy.After a rescue attempt was made, the hostages were divided into small groups and moved throughout Iran.He
and other hostages tried to establish daily routines.
"We needed to feel that we had some control in our lives," he
In the morning, they prayed, made their beds, ate breakfast and exercised.He
and a cellmate did at least 100 sit-ups and other exercises, read, then exercised again.How they were treated depended on who the guards were.A number of hostages were beaten and tortured.He
was blindfolded and had his
hands tied behind his
"I was hit and punched," he
said."We were always threatened and intimidated." Moeller
had little communication with outsiders and received one card in six months from a person he
"They didn't want to give me mail," he
said."They didn't allow me to have communication with family."
was released, he
was transported to Algiers and Germany, then reunited with family in West Point, N.Y. Moeller
was asked if he
had any physical or psychological effects from his
"Obviously there were some changes.I don't want to go into details.There were some residual effects," he
wouldn't speculate what the United States needs to do now in its war against terrorism.
"There are people who are more current on that who need to make the decisions," he
is a substitute mail carrier, has a carpet cleaning business and does a lot of volunteer work, his sister, Rae Lee, said.
and Elaine Moeller and their children moved to Loup City in 1991.