pedxingParticipantNovember 12, 2007 at 1:53 amPost count: 97
When I first did FOT48 in 2002, someone asked how I could be carrying the flag if I opposed the US going into Iraq. I forget my answer then, but I thought this story about Navy Lt. Commander Mike Christian – which I am posting on Veteran’s day – gives a better answer than I possibly could have:
Before a rapt audience of more than 500, McCain recalled how [Mike] Christian, a cellmate from Huntsville, became an inspiration for him and other prisoners of war….
“He came from a very poor family. He told me that he didn’t wear a pair of shoes until he was 13 years of age. He enlisted in the United States Navy” as a way to build a better life and eventually became an officer, McCain said.
In their concrete-floor cell with a single bulb hanging in each corner, Christian fashioned a needle out of bamboo and used scraps of cloth to stitch an American flag inside his prison shirt.
“Every evening before we had our bowl of soup of undetermined content, we’d take Mike’s shirt with the flag sewn inside of it and say the Pledge of Allegiance,” McCain said.
“Some guys had already been there as long as seven years — being able to pledge our allegiance to our flag and our country was indeed the most important part of our day.”
McCain said the Vietnamese captors found Christian’s flag and beat him “very soundly.”
When Christian was brought back to the cell, McCain and others tried to help with his broken ribs and bruises.
Then as McCain started to go to sleep, he said, he looked in one corner of the cell and was surprised by what he saw.
“Sitting there beneath that dim light bulb with a piece of white cloth and a piece of red cloth and another shirt with his eyes almost closed from the beating he received was my friend Mike Christian sewing another American flag,” McCain said.
“He was doing that because he knew how much it meant to us to pledge our allegiance to our flag and our country.”
Christian died from smoke inhalation in a Virginia Beach, Va., fire in September 1983.
Being a POW is at the core of McCain’s appeal to voters and talking about it more would help re-invigorate his sagging presidential bid, said Merle Black, a political scientist at Emory University.
“But it’s not enough to base a presidential campaign on. That’s not the part of John McCain that’s controversial,” Black said.
John Kerry was similarly struggling in his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2004 until he brought out Jim Rassmann, whose life he saved under harrowing combat conditions in Vietnam.
The two held a reunion just before the Iowa caucuses, which Kerry came from behind to win.
Charlotte Strong Neal, who was Christian’s wife, said McCain’s recounting of what happened in Vietnam is nearly all true, except her husband didn’t grow up as poor as McCain makes out.
“Every time I see John, I tell him Mike had shoes,” she said.
Neal, who helped in McCain’s campaign for president in 2000, said he also told the story back then while campaigning for New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary, and it always moved audiences.
“Every place we went, people would say, ‘Oh, you’re Mike Christian’s wife,’ ” she recalled.
Retired Air Force Col. Bob Lilly of Montgomery knows the story can affect people.
He was one of the POWs who helped clean up Christian after his beating, and he was so moved by Christian’s determination to make another flag that he wrote the date on a cigarette wrapper so he wouldn’t forget it: April 20, 1972.
“This is not mythology,” he said.ChrisKeymasterNovember 13, 2007 at 1:56 pmPost count: 884
…When I first did FOT48 in 2002, someone asked how I could be carrying the flag if I opposed the US going into Iraq… :
This is probably the most foolish, short sighted question I’ve ever seen! The USA is much more than our invasion of Iraq. This question is akin to asking how you could love your child after they did something naughty. I’m afraid I wouldn’t have been able to show the same composure you did in answering the question, I quick tire of Americans who leap to criticize the country they live so comfortably in. I’m all for improving things, but to blindly condemn the US is ignorant.
Thanks for posting this PedXing!pedxingParticipantNovember 13, 2007 at 5:22 pmPost count: 97
I agree. Believing “my country right or wrong” doesn’t mean you can’t say the leaders or the voters made the wrong decision – it just means you love it either way.
My answer was something like, “I don’t confuse the flag with the things that come wrapped in it. People use the flag to sell all kinds of things from hot dogs, to cars to wars. Just because someone uses it to sell something I’m not buying, won’t make me turn away from it.”
But just thinking about what the flag has meant to the brave men in the Hanoi Hilton is enough to make me happy to have the chance to fly it high and proud.
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