Speaker John Boehner put out a wonderful press release today honoring U.S. Rep. Sam Johnson, released from seven years of North Vietnamese captivity 40 years ago today. An excerpt:
In fact, Sam was set aside for extra abuse because of his obstinate resistance to his Communist captors. At various points Sam spent 42 straight months in solitary confinement and was forced into leg stocks for more than two years.
“But while Sam’s jailors punished his body, they could not break his spirit; his love of God and country is a deep wellspring they could never penetrate. His scars bear witness to his tenacity and toughness.
Johnson was on the very first plane of POWs that left Vietnam as a result of the agreement forged by President Richard Nixon. Among the 130-some others released that first day were Edward Alvarez Jr. (later Deputy Administrator of the VA) — honored last year down here where I live in Mobile when our local Chapter of the Association of Naval Services Officers (ANSO) was named after him — former Vice Presidential candidate James Stockdale, and former U.S. Sen. Jeremiah Denton, also of Mobile. Denton, by the way, is a delightful man who continued to do good works for decades after he left the Senate.
Denton’s book about the experience, When Hell Was in Session, is an incredibly moving read.
(U.S. Sen. John McCain was released from Vietnam a month later, on March 14, 1973.)
Anyway, even all these years later, please take a moment to stop, consider the courage and sacrifice and hardiness of those kept in such hellish conditions while serving our country’s cause, and please offer a prayer of thanks.