American Red, White & Blue
From a speech made by Capt.
John S. McCain, US, (Rep) who represents Arizona in the U.S.
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 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 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.
You must remember our duty,
our honor, and our country.
"I pledge 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 all."
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