By lex, on August 11th, 2009
During a leadership and ethics class as a young midshipman I had the opportunity to view a video of Jeremiah Denton, a naval aviator shot down in Viet Nam who had the unenviable distinction of being the US serviceman with the longest time spent in solitary confinement as a prisoner of war. The video had been made for propaganda purposes, with Denton asked to admit to “war crimes” – instead he answered, “I don’t know what is happening now in Vietnam, because the only news sources I have are Vietnamese. But whatever the position of my government is, I believe in it, I support it, and I will support it as long as I live.”
He did this while blinking the word “torture” in Morse code, in order to communicate the North Vietnamese standards of care. For his defiance, Denton spent four years in solitary confinement. Upon repatriation he spoke for his fellow POWs saying, “We are honored to have had the opportunity to serve our country under difficult circumstances. We are profoundly grateful to our Commander-in-Chief and to our nation for this day. God bless America.”
Such examples are hard to live up to, but that’s why we have heroes – to give us something to shoot for.
The California state house was not so welcoming, however: In 2004 a San Diego assemblyman, noting that the assembly had five times celebrated Cinco de Mayo on the house floor, asked for Admiral Denton to speak in celebration of Independence Day. This request was denied by the majority party. Turns out that the Admiral was not just a POW with conservative political leanings, but is unabashedly religious – a characteristic which helped him get through eight years of brutal captivity, but which did not endear him to the Sacramento establishment. The career of a retiring LA Times reporter was celebrated instead.
Different people have different kinds of heroes, I guess.
Admiral Denton turned 85 last week, and remains active on the advisory board of the Thomas More Law Center:
Admiral Denton commented on attaining 85 years, “I am happy to say that I just celebrated my 85th Birthday. While you won’t find me jumping out of an airplane like Bush, Sr. did on his 85th earlier this year, you would find me on the golf course with my sons and ready for the challenge. I am even happier to say that I was able to enjoy my Birthday in good health, with family, friends and the Blessings of God who has kept me around. The Good Lord must render some things I have to say as valuable…
Richard Thompson, President and Chief Counsel of the Thomas More Law Center commented, “Admiral Denton represents everything good about America — a heroic patriot, a devoted husband, father, and a faithful Christian. The Law Center is proud to have him as the Chairman of our Citizens Advisory Board. Honoring him on his birthday is a small tribute to a man that is literally a living legend.”
Living well can be the best revenge.
(Note: Time spent in solitary vice longest confinement edited for accuracy in the first paragraph.) (09-09-2018 – Lex’s note – Ed. )