A great American hero died this week
US troops finally left Vietnam this week in 1973. Many of us still remember the POWs, like John McCain, returning home after spending years in Hanoi.
Sadly, Vietnam fell to the communists two years later, in large part because the Congress cut the funding and let the North overrun the South.
One of those men getting off the POW plane in 1973 was Jeremiah A. Denton who passed away this week.
His story is worth sharing with all, especially the young:
"In July 1965, a month after he began flying combat missions for the U.S. Navy in Vietnam, the Mobile native was shot down near Thanh Hoa.
He was captured and recalled his captivity in a book titled “When Hell Was in Session.”
“They beat you with fists and fan belts,” he told the Los Angeles Times in 1979. “They warmed you up and threatened you with death. Then they really got serious and gave you something called the rope trick.”
The use of ropes — to cut off circulation in his limbs — left him with no feeling in his fingertips and intense muscle spasms, he said.
Some of the most severe torture came after the 1966 interview, in which he confounded his captors by saying that he continued to fully support the U.S. government, “and I will support it as long as I live.”
“In the early morning hours, I prayed that I could keep my sanity until they released me. I couldn’t even give in to their demands, because there were none. It was pure revenge,” Denton wrote.
The tape was widely seen, and U.S. intelligence experts had picked up the Morse Code message.
But Denton theorized later that his captors likely figured it out only after he was awarded the Navy Cross — the second-highest decoration for valor — for the blinks in 1974.
He said his captors never brought him out for another interview. But with the war’s end drawing closer, he was released in February 1973."
Mr Denton had a political career serving as a US Senator from Alabama. He was the first Republican elected in Alabama since Reconstruction.
Denton's political career was closely tied to President Reagan's political fortunes. He was elected in the Reagan landslide of 1980 and then defeated when the GOP lost the US Senate in 1986.
Mr Denton, and so many others who served in Vietnam, were simple men who endured hardship and served the US with honor. They are just the latest heroes in a time line that goes back to Bunker Hill, Gettysburg, D-Day and more recently, Iraq.
These men really stand out, specially when compared with some of the lightweights serving in public office today. They make us proud of being US citizens.
RIP Mr Denton and we salute your service!