As a veteran of both Vietnam and Iraq I have no idea what I would have done or said if I were a POW. I like to think I would maintain a proper decorum in support of my country. It is easy to say when not in that position. As a former US Congressman, I never met Senator McCain, former Navy Pilot, former Hanoi Hilton POW, a fellow Vietnam Veteran, a husband, father and candidate for the United States Presidency, nor did I speak with him. My prayers are with him and his family right now.
I also know it is difficult to find the truth in DC (and an honest reporter) and I know political opponents will go to great lengths to undermine you, especially the Democrats (and many Republicans too). Many in congress have no honor whatsoever and most of those were lawyers, not veterans.
I had a #1 rule as a congressman; to never lie no matter the consequences. I fired four of my staffers for intentionally lying. I owed it to my brothers whose names are inscribed on the Vietnam War memorial located not far from my former office in DC to follow that rule.
Not all those names on the Wall were killed by the enemy either. Many committed suicide, a few died from drug overdoses and some were killed in an accident. Some were drafted and some volunteered. They were not all saints when they were alive either. They are now and that is as it should be.
I knew about 15 of those guys whose names are on the Wall. Most were in my basic training unit and eventually assigned to other units to complete their training and move on to their duty assignments to complete a tour of duty. Some of my fellow basic trainees ended up in Vietnam months later. One of those names on the wall, Charles Parker, Jr. was my best friend growing up and joined the Marine Corps in the footsteps of his father, and as the only son of a WWII Marine veteran who got his Purple Heart on Iwo.
Many mornings in DC I would sit on a bench drinking coffee overlooking the Mall and all those War Memorials. The ghosts came to me and told me their stories… I felt like the kid in the “Sixth Sense” movie talking to ghosts. It was crazy. All I could say was I would try my best to “Earn this” as Tom Hanks said in the movie “Saving Private Ryan” before the character Captain Miller died.
You can ask a few members of Congress about the time when we went to place wreaths on the graves at Arlington. I had a tough time. In all the BS I experienced in DC from the coward armchair critics, the name calling, the negative hyperbole, the back stabbing, lies and deceit, the betrayals… My minutes placing wreaths at Arlington was the toughest job I performed.
I doubt I will ever see or hear about television talk show flips like Maddow, political wankers like Waters – both republicans and democrats, or Hollywood hypocrites, so called radio hacks and news reporters (insert countless other celebrity’s names here of every flavor and variety) spend a few hours on a weekend or week day placing wreaths on the graves of our veterans. They have no honor nor appreciation, nor do they or will they ever understand. They live in a make believe dream world.
I joined the Civil Air Patrol after leaving office and was asked to lead the effort to help with Wreaths Across American program. I said I would but made little effort because, deep down, I did not want to do it again with company. I knew if I did I would break down and I did not want those kids to see a grown man with tears in his eyes. I do it privately now. Not all soldiers, sailors, airmen or Marines measure up completely to our desires, yet, not a day goes by I do not remember what they all did…or tried to do.