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
us in solitary confinement or two or three to a cell. In 1971 the NVA
us from these conditions of isolation into large rooms with as many as
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
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
pair of shoes until he was 13 years old. At 17, he enlisted in the US
He later earned a commission by going to Officer Training School.
became a Naval Flight Officer and was shot down and captured in 1967.
had a keen and deep appreciation of the opportunities this country and
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 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
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
hours. Then, they opened the door of the cell and threw him in. We
him u p 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
beneath that dim light bulb with a piece of red cloth, another shirt and
bamboo needle, was my friend, Mike Christian. He was sitting there with
eyes almost shut from the beating he had received, making another
flag. He was not making the flag because it made Mike Christian feel
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
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,
liberty and justice for all."