January 09, 2008

John McCain Pledges Allegiance

The picture here is of an American flag, and a POW-MIA flag. Perhaps there is no one who can appreciate the meaning of both, more than John McCain.

There are those to whom our American flag has no particular significance, and express that sentiment by choosing to ignore it when the Pledge of Allegiance is recited, or the National Anthem is played, but here's what John McCain had to say about it:

As you may know, I spent five and one half years as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War. In the early years of our imprisonment, the NVA kept us in solitary confinement or two or three to a cell. In 1971 the NVA moved us from these conditions of isolation into large rooms with as many as 30 to 40 men to a room. This was, as you can imagine, a wonderful change and was a direct result of the efforts of millions of Americans on behalf of a few hundred POWs 10,000 miles from home.

One of the men who moved into my room was a young man named Mike Christian. Mike came from a small town near Selma, Alabama. He didn't wear a pair of shoes until he was 13 years old. At 17, he enlisted in the US Navy. He later earned a commission by going to Officer Training School. Then he became a Naval Flight Officer and was shot down and captured in 1967. Mike had a keen and deep appreciation of the opportunities this country-and our military-provide for people who want to work and want to succeed. As part of the change in treatment, the Vietnamese allowed some prisoners to receive packages from home. In some of these packages were handkerchiefs, scarves and other items of clothing. Mike got himself a bamboo needle.

Over a period of a couple of months, he created an American flag and sewed it on the inside of his shirt. Every afternoon, before we had a bowl of soup, we would hang Mike's shirt on the wall of the cell and say the Pledge of Allegiance. I know the Pledge of Allegiance may not seem the most important part of our day now, but I can assure you that in that stark cell it was indeed the most important and meaningful event.

One day the Vietnamese searched our cell, as they did periodically, and discovered Mike's shirt with the flag sewn inside, and removed it. That evening they returned, opened the door of the cell, and for the benefit of all of us, beat Mike Christian severely for the next couple of hours.

Then, they opened the door of the cell and threw him in. We cleaned him up as well as we could. The cell in which we lived had a concrete slab in the middle on which we slept. Four naked light bulbs hung in each corner of the room. As said, we tried to clean up Mike as well as we could. After the excitement died down, I looked in the corner of the room, and sitting there beneath that dim light bulb with a piece of red cloth, another shirt and his bamboo needle, was my friend, Mike Christian. He was sitting there with his eyes almost shut from the beating he had received, making another American flag.

He was not making the flag because it made Mike Christian feel better. He was making that flag because he knew how important it was to us to be able to Pledge our allegiance to our flag and country.

So the next time you say the Pledge of Allegiance, you must never forget the sacrifice and courage that thousands of Americans have made to build our nation and promote freedom around the world.

You must remember our duty, our honor, and our country.

*The above text is an abbreviated version of a speech given by Senator John McCain, a Vietnam veteran and former POW, before the Republican National Convention in 1988.


rockync said...

I think this not only speaks to the bravery of our military; which it does, but also to the resilience and devotion of the human spirit to liberty and self sacrifice. Over the centuries, stories of such committment and courage serve to bolster us and educate us to what is of true and everlasting importance in our lives.

Anonymous said...

I liked McCain until he ran down Southeners and said "well, I didn't say what I really thought because I didn't want to lose any votes."

sheoflittlebrain said...

Thank you for all these wonderful posts, Jan.

I think the Gudmundsson essay pointed out many of the reasons there is becoming such a division between those who serve and those who support the military and those who are disonnected from the idea of responsibility to thir own country.

I think too, there is an elitest attitude prelevent throughout all levels of education in our country that promotes an attitude of entitlement and attempts to persuade our children and young adults that those who serve in the military are too uneducated to know better.

My sweet cousin Dennis, a Navy pilot, is still MIA. His plane went down over Laos in 1972,,lately I've been thinking about posting about him.

Jan said...

rockync..yes, the human spirit in the face of adversity is an amazing thing!

Jan said...

hermit..was that in a speech, or an interview, recently? I missed it, I guess.

I don't like everything about him, but I do believe that he has a genuine concern for his country..and I hope it is not for just a select group.

Jan said...

She..I'm so sorry about your cousin, Dennis...I hope that you will write about him.

I think it is shameful that there are still MIAs..how very sad.

Donald Douglas said...

That's such a great story!

Thanks for posting this, Jan!

Jan said...

Donald..I love that story..thanks!