A Price For Freedom
In 1959 Communist North Vietnam forces were steadily trying to take over South Vietnam. I was outraged at the Anti-American protests that sprang up when the government decided to help the South Vietnamese people retain their independence. How could people in a country so full of freedom want to deny that right to other countries?
I joined the navy and began training to be a naval aviator. I was the pilot of an A-4 Skyhawk and went on many bombing raids over North Vietnam and its Communist allies. On my 23rd mission, my plane was hit by an enemy missile. Instantly, my arms and leg were filled with pain. I was able to eject and started to parachute down toward a small lake.
My arms and leg were numb, and I had no strength to swim. But as I began to sink, rough hands grabbed me and pulled me to shore. I finally felt solid ground beneath my feet, but then a red-hot pain shot through my shoulder. A coarser laugh sounded above me as a rifle once again descended to crush the bones in my shoulder. As my merciless captors moved me toward the city, I slipped into unconsciousness.
When I awoke, I found I had two fractured arms, a fractured leg, a cast on my chest and a Vietnamese official declaring me a Prisoner of War.
Over the next few months, while I went without medical treatment, guards used torturing as a form of questioning. One day, instead of being taken directly to the torture room, I found myself standing before one of the commanding officers. I was sure my fate was going to be decided that day.
The officer began speaking with a thick Vietnamese accent, “Lieutenant, our intelligence agents have learned that you are the son of the man who has just taken over command of many of the American troop. Because of your connection, we have decided to offer you early release.” Thoughts raced through my head as he continued.
“The only reason I am doing this is because I am supposed to appear merciful to the general public.” The thoughts of acceptance to this offer racing through my head suddenly stopped and I knew what my answer would be.
“I will not be able to accept this favor unless all the other Americans here are released as well. It is my duty to remain with them if you don’t as an example to the American people of what it really means to put your county first and stand up for your freedoms!” I watched as the officer’s face turned livid with rage. His voice was low with anger when he turned to me,
“American, that was your only chance!”
I remained in solitary confinement for the next several years. Occasionally I was taken out for beatings and torture sessions. When the war finally ended, I was released and returned to the States. Through my imprisonment, many people were able to see the evils of Communism. They learned to value their freedom more and guard it with their lives. May the people never forget the great price that is paid everyday around the world for Freedom.
This story is based on the imprisonment of John McCain during the Vietnam War at the "Hanoi Hilton”. John McCain is a senator from AZ and was the Republican Presidential Candidate for 2008.