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The Cheerleader and the War Hero
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When your wife or husband, son or daughter, brother or sister goes off to war, you feel utter helplessness; you wait with terrible uncertainty.

What can one person possibly do? you wonder. Often prayer is the only thing you can do. But, does God really hear my prayers? Ask Jane Ellis.

As a 16-year-old cheerleader in Mount Pleasant, Texas, her heart wept when she heard about prisoners of war who were being tortured in captivity, thousands of miles from home.

“I felt bad I couldn’t do anything for them,” she says. But, when someone told her she could buy a $2.50 bracelet with the name of one of those POWs on it, she jumped at the chance. “My POW was Col. Leo Thorsness,” she says excitedly.

“From that day forward, Leo was like a member of my family. I wore his bracelet and prayed for him daily. He went to cheerleading practice, to church, and to every football game.”

Eight thousand miles away in a hellhole derisively called the “Hanoi Hilton,” downed Air Force pilot Leo Thorsness was enduring a marathon of beatings and torture. His captors bent parts of his body that wouldn’t bend. They berated him repeatedly, claiming that Americans back home didn’t care and had forgotten him.

He had no way of knowing that back in Washington, D.C. they cared about him so much that he was about to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor for valor in combat.

Leo’s only lifeline was his faith; he fiercely clenched it, believing that he really would see his wife and child again. He just needed to keep praying.

Two years after Jane Ellis slipped Leo’s bracelet onto her wrist, she saw on TV that he’d been released. He was coming home! Prayer worked. She put away the bracelet in a keepsake box, where it sat for the next 40 years.

But, God was not finished with Jane and Col. Thorsness. There was amazing Divine Alignment yet to occur.

Jane didn’t really want to go to the Houston Astros game when friends called to offer tickets. Her husband John prevailed. “It’ll be fun,” he’d insisted.

She took him at his word, yet she never could have anticipated the gigantic GODwink that was awaiting her. Jane watched on the huge Jumbotron screen as an announcer introduced the VIP who had been invited to throw out the first pitch. It was Col. Leo Thorsness!

“That’s my POW,” she shouted, literally jumping up and down. “I have to meet him.”

John reminded her she was in a 55,000-seat stadium and Col. Thorsness would be seated in a highly secured area — the owner’s box.

“But, I just have to try,” she said.

A half-hour later she returned, dejected. “Every security guard stopped me. Most of them didn’t even know what a POW was,” she told John.

Then, Jane was blessed with another GODwink. A young Astros marketing representative was coming through the aisles with a camera crew. Jane seized the opportunity and quickly spilled out her story.

The young woman smiled and said her grandfather was a POW. Then, she lifted the badge around her neck and said, “C’mon, this can get us anywhere.”

Jane followed her guide all the way to the owner’s box. She told the security guard the purpose of her mission and watched him disappear in the secured area.

Moments later … bounding up the steps … was Col. Thorsness! (Pictured top right, Jane meeting “her” POW)

“YOU had my POW bracelet?” he asked, incredulously.

“Yes, and I prayed for you every night,” Jane blurted, tears filling her eyes.

His look was pensive. “That was a terrible place. Most nights I couldn’t sleep. But on other nights … I slept like a baby. Now I know why.”

Her voice cracked with emotion as she whispered, “You are my hero.”

He looked at her directly, swallowing hard, and said, “No, YOU are MY hero.”

They hugged one another, as if they were old friends.

“That was my best GODwink ever,” says Jane, who serves as a nurse practitioner in Katy, Texas, and loves to tell her story to anyone she encounters.

Today, Col. Thorsness and his wife of 60 years live down the street from their daughter, who was 11 when Leo left for war and 18 when he returned from captivity.

In addition to treasured moments sitting under the stars, enjoying the simple freedoms that encompass him, Leo’s favorite time is when he’s at home with his two granddaughters. He reflects, “It’s always a good day when the doorknob is on the inside.”