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Jeff D.
Republican CA 10

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  • Honoring the Service of the Men of the Vietnam War

    by Representative Jeff Denham

    Posted on 2015-02-12

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    DENHAM. Thank you, Madam Speaker.

    Forty years ago today, the first flight carrying U.S. prisoners of war out of North Vietnam lifted off from Hanoi to take the first 40 U.S. servicemen to freedom.

    These men, some of whom had been held for 8 years in a brutal captivity, were just a small cohort of more than 683 Americans known to have been held in North Vietnamese prisons and the first of 591 POWs returned to American soil after the Paris Peace Accords through Operation Homecoming.

    {time} 1845 Sadly, 92 Americans died in captivity, and to this day, more than 1,000 Americans who served in Indochina during the Vietnam war era are still unaccounted for.

    Today, we are here to honor both the men who survived and those who never returned. Their extraordinary courage, endurance, and sacrifice should be an example for everyone in this Chamber and across the country.

    I would, in particular, like to recall the service of my good friend Senator John McCain and of our colleague here in the House, Sam Johnson, who spent nearly 7 years as a prisoner of war--many of them locked in solitary confinement.

    The treatment that Congressman Sam Johnson and Senator McCain faced inside the prisons was designed to break those held. To force them to give military information or to serve as propaganda tools for the North Vietnamese regime, physical and emotional torture were used to compel cooperation. The denial of food and sleep deprivation were regular, beatings with bars and whips were common, and the binding of POWs with ropes and then dislocating their arms and legs was a favorite tactic.

    The names of the places that they were held have entered the lexicon--the Hanoi Hilton, the Alcatraz, and the Dogpatch--all names that conjure up images of cramped cells, isolation, filth, and savage pain.

    Madam Speaker, it is worth remembering that the North Vietnamese, in order to justify their treatment of the American captives, declared all of their prisoners to be war criminals and denied them all protections of the Geneva Convention.

    What is most remarkable is these men never broke. They kept faith with their country and with each other despite the extraordinary costs to themselves.

    When asked what kept them going, many responded their faith in God and their fellow prisoners. Commander Paul Galanti stated: What held me together was faith--four of 'em: faith in God, faith in my fellow POWs--many of whom I'd never met, although I felt closer to them than my own family--faith in my fellow military forces and leaders whom I knew wouldn't let us down, and, finally, faith in the USA.

    Madam Speaker, these stories and the others shared by my colleagues here tonight should remind us of the terrible price paid by those who serve our country and of the debt we owe to each of them. We must also continue to make every effort to recover the 1,636 missing in action from the Vietnam war.

    I would like to thank Mr. Dold for speaking earlier tonight on this topic.

    Madam Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.


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