Orson Swindle and Paul Galanti were looking for a place to hold a "Tet Dinner" so former American POWs could commune and celebrate the Vietnamese New Year in 1986.
Swindle, a former Marine pilot shot down and held in North Vietnam for six years, read a glowing review about a Vietnamese restaurant in Arlington, Virginia. Swindle walked into the place and was concerned at its size-less than 30 seats in the whole restaurant. He asked the diminutive owner, Nguyen Van Thoi, if he could accommodate 25 or 30 former POWs and guests for the dinner.
"You POW?" asked Thoi (at his insistence, his friends called him "Thoi," never Mr. Nguyen).
"Yes," said Swindle.
"Me too!" Thoi exclaimed.
At that moment began what Swindle calls his closest friendship. And also began the Annual Tet-POW Dinner hosted by Thoi in one of his Washington-area restaurants. Swindle came to Washington as an assistant secretary of commerce in the Reagan administration and stayed, recently finishing a term as Federal Trade Commissioner. During that time, says Swindle, "we literally had lunch at least once a week."