From a speech
made by Capt. John S. McCain, US, (Rep) who represents
Arizona in the U.S. Senate:
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
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
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 us, beat Mike
Christian severely for the next couple of hours.
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 I
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.
remember our duty, our honor, and our country.
allegiance to the flag of the United States of America,
and to the Republic, for which it stands, one nation,
under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for