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Ralph H.
Former Republican TX 4
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    Honoring Congressman Sam Johnson on 40Th Anniversary of Release from Prisoner of War Camp

    by Former Representative Ralph M. Hall

    Posted on 2013-02-25

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    HALL. Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague. I do rise, as others, today for a great American and a very dear friend, Sam Johnson. It's been said over and over again about Operation Homecoming, but that's one of the great days that I remember. And I'm sure it's in Sam's mind and heart and that he appreciates all of us here getting to say a few words about him.



    He served, as you know, for 29 years in the United States Air Force flying combat missions in both Korea and Vietnam, captured by enemy forces, going to spend 7 years in captivity as a prisoner of war, including 42 months of solitary confinement. Despite that confinement, Sam never lost his faith in God. He continued to show leadership and courage, helping to teach other prisoners how to survive. Through those 7 years, Sam remained committed to staying strong and helping other fellow soldiers doing the same thing.

    Finally, on February 12, 1973, he returned to U.S. soil with other fellow American servicemen in what was known as Operation Homecoming. Once home, he was united with his wife, Shirley, who faithfully waited and prayed for Sam's safe return.

    It's a fact about Sam's fighting for our country. He also suffered for our country. This isn't the prime reason his constituents vote for him, though it would be enough; but Sam is completely aware of the rules of the House of Representatives and one of the Speaker's leading whips. When Sam speaks, we listen.

    Sam and Shirley suffered the loss of a son the last week of February. I hope they felt the love and grief we shared with them and the family. We know that grief is addressed in the Bible. Love spawns grief, and without love there's little grief. There is much love in the Johnson family for their neighbors and friends. For the approximately 7 years Sam and the others suffered in the Hanoi Hilton, a 4-letter word was always on their mind: home.

    In closing, let me just say that Sam continues to fight on behalf of our veterans and members of the armed services. After 40 years, he continues to serve the American people with the same strength and resolve that he demonstrated in Vietnam. I'm truly honored to have the opportunity to serve with such an exemplary American and to call him a friend. Sam's commitment to his country, faith, and family are values that every American should live by. I ask all my colleagues, of course, to vote ``aye.'' Mr. Speaker, I rise today to celebrate a great American and a dear friend of mine, Sam Johnson, in honor of the 40th Anniversary of ``Operation Homecoming.'' On February 12, 1973, 591 American prisoners of war, including Sam Johnson, returned from Vietnam after being held as prisoners for seven years. Sam is the epitome of a true American hero. His unwavering dedication to freedom and to serving his country exemplifies what it means to be a patriot.

    Sam served for 29 years in the United States Air Force, flying combat missions in both the Korean and Vietnam Wars. In 1966, during one of his missions, Sam's plane was shot down over North Vietnam. He was captured by enemy forces and would go on to spend seven years in captivity as a Prisoner of War, including 42 months of solitary confinement.

    ``After his capture, Sam was sent with 10 other POWs to a special facility where they were kept in solitary confinement from 1967-1969. Self-named the ``Alcatraz Gang,'' they were sent there for their strong resistance against their captors. They were shackled in legcuffs every night and endured continued torture. Sam never lost hope, and remained unbreakable against his torturers. Sam, along with the other members of the ``Alcatraz Gang,'' was moved back to the infamous Hanoi Hilton where he served out the remainder of his time in Vietnam.

    Despite his confinement, Sam never lost his faith in God. He continued to show leadership and courage, helping to teach other prisoners [[Page H611]] how to survive. Throughout those seven years, Sam remained committed to staying strong and helping other fellow soldiers to do the same.

    Finally on February 12, 1973, Sam returned to U.S. soil with other fellow American servicemen in what was known as ``Operation Homecoming.'' Once home, he was reunited with his wife Shirley, who faithfully waited and prayed for Sam's safe return.

    Sam and I shared Collin County for many years in the U.S. Congress and we would often speak to constituents together. I always dreaded to compare my war service as a fighter pilot with the Navy with Sam's service. His record, every phase, was so much more admirable and dangerous than my several years, that I felt like I had run off to Canada.

    As a fact, about Sam's fighting for our country, he also suffered for our country. This isn't the prime reason his constituents vote for him, though it would be enough. Sam is completely aware of the rules of the House of Representatives and is one of the Speaker's leading Whips. When Sam speaks, we listen.

    Sam and Shirley suffered the loss of a son the last week of February, and I hope they felt the love and grief we shared with them and the family. We know that grief is addressed in the Bible. Love spawns grief, and without love, there is little grief. There is much love in the Johnson family, and their neighbors and friends.

    For the approximately seven years Sam and the others suffered in the Hanoi Hilton, a four-letter word was always on their mind: HOME.

    My dad was in WWI, and he went overseas with the same soldiers, and returned back to the USA with many of those he fought with. To show how much they loved home and the sight of the Statue of Liberty, as they entered the New York Harbor, one of my dad's friends said to the Statue of Liberty, ``Old lady, if you ever see me again, you are going to have to turn around.'' That's what going home meant to most Veterans of the various wars.

    Sam continues to fight on behalf of our veterans and members of the Armed Services. After 40 years, he continues to serve the American people with the same strength and resolve that he demonstrated in Vietnam. I am truly honored to have the opportunity to serve with such an exemplary American, and to call him ``friend.'' Sam's commitment to his country, faith, and family, are values that every American should live by. I ask all my colleagues present today to join me in honoring such an outstanding American hero, Sam Johnson.

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