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Ted P.
Republican TX 2

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  • Honoring Congressman Sam Johnson on 40Th Anniversary of Release from Prisoner of War Camp

    by Representative Ted Poe

    Posted on 2013-02-25

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    POE of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I ask unanimous consent that all Members may have 5 legislative days in which to revise and extend their remarks and include extraneous material on the topic of this Special Order.



    The SPEAKER pro tempore. Is there objection to the request of the gentleman from Texas? There was no objection.

    Mr. POE of Texas. Mr. Speaker, I want to talk about a remarkable individual that serves with us in the House of Representatives.

    We are really surrounded by remarkable people, 435 individuals who came from other walks of life. Most of them had other careers before they came to the House of Representatives. But tonight, we're going to talk about the anniversary of one individual. Because, you see, 40 years ago, Colonel Sam Johnson was released as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. He had spent 7 years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

    It all started when he was flying one of his F-4s, being a pilot. This was not a new experience. I mean, after all, he had served in Korea and flew 62 combat missions in an F-86 Sabre called Shirley's Texas Tornado, after his wife, Shirley. So he flew 62 in the Korean war; Vietnam, he's on his 25th mission flying an F-4 Phantom. He left Laotian airspace, came into North Vietnam, and he was shot down by ground fire. This was not his first tour of duty in Vietnam; it was his second tour of duty. Sam Johnson is an American warrior.

    After he was shot down on this day, April 16, 1966, his life took a turn, a different turn. When he parachuted out of his plane, his shoulder was injured--of course the Vietnamese, they didn't do anything to help his injuries, and he still carries some of those wounds from his prisoner days and from when he crashed or when he came back down to Earth in that parachute. He was captured by the North Vietnamese Army and he was put in a prisoner of war camp.

    The North Vietnamese probably developed prisoner of war camps better than anyplace on Earth. They were hard, they were tough, they were mean, and not everybody survived those camps. So he spent 7 years as a prisoner of war, and they interrogated him every day. But Sam never gave in. In fact, the Vietnamese called him ``Die Hard.'' He was the first person that I know of that was called ``Die Hard'' because he would never die no matter how hard they beat him.

    He was so obstinate, Mr. Speaker, that they sent him to the infamous ``Hanoi Hilton''--satire, of course; it was everything but a hotel--and put him in a section called Alcatraz, where he and 11 obstinate prisoners of war were put together. Sam Johnson was so tough, would never break, would never give information, that they finally put him in solitary confinement.

    Mr. Speaker, I want to describe the cell to you that he spent 4 years of his life in--solitary confinement. It was 3 feet by 9 feet. It's about the size of this table, 3 feet, over to about that podium, 9 feet. That was his cell. That's where he was for 4 years. They left the light on constantly. At night, they would come in and put him in leg irons--4 years solitary confinement. But he never gave up.

    He learned how to communicate with other prisoners by tapping on the wall. He learned the names of the other 374 members, memorized their names so that when he got out--because he expected to get out--that he could tell their families that they were there.

    But he never broke. He was never broken. He continued to do what he was supposed to do to honor America and represent America, but he never gave information to America's enemies.

    So tonight, we commemorate his 40th anniversary of being released from that prisoner of war camp when the war was over. Seven years of his life he gave to this country in a camp that most of us would never survive.

    At this time, I'd like to yield to the majority leader, the gentleman from Virginia (Mr. Cantor).

    Mr. CANTOR. I thank the gentleman from Texas.

    Mr. Speaker, we are here tonight to honor and celebrate our friend, Sam Johnson, the gentleman from Texas that we all know as a friend and colleague, but that I think America knows as a hero.

    Sam, as the gentleman from Texas points out, was awarded two Silver Stars and two Purple Hearts, among his many other decorations, for fighting bravely for freedom, and for 7 years Sam Johnson was held as a prisoner of war by the North Vietnamese--the horror of which none of us will ever know [[Page H610]] but lies deep within the soul of this great American patriot.

    {time} 1930 Indeed, Mr. Speaker, the 40th anniversary of his freedom is reason for celebration and is the reason we are gathered here in the Chamber tonight. Sam's heroism and bravery are acts for which all Americans owe him a debt of gratitude.

    But I'd also like to talk about our friend, Sam. Mr. Speaker, it's no exaggeration when I say I believe that Sam Johnson is the moral compass of our conference. He considers every issue fairly, and he's never afraid to reach across the aisle and work with Members there or on our side of the aisle or with freshman Members, as he did with me when I first came to Congress in 2001.

    As many of us know, Sam and Shirley Johnson recently lost their son, Bob. All of us would like to extend our deepest sympathy to the Johnsons for their loss. Over these past weeks, we all saw anew the grace and humility that Sam carries with him every day.

    Mr. Speaker, that's Sam. America and his beloved Texas are better places because of his decades-long service. And my life, Mr. Speaker, has been immeasurably enriched by our friendship.

    Mr. POE of Texas. I thank the majority leader for his important words.

    I now yield to the gentleman from Texas, Mr. Pete Sessions.

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