I just finished reading Faith of my Fathers by John McCain. It was tough reading it for two reasons. One, it was a bit dry and boring at times, but I'm sure that's only because I'm not into military strategy and history. It's not my thing. Two, it was hard reading what he went through and realizing the extent of hostility and evilness in human beings. I'm passing the book on to my brother Jaime who I'm sure will appreciate it much more than I did, as far as the military/history angle. But I do appreciate the man, John McCain, what he went through and his love of country.
I want to share a few excerpts that were particularly moving to me.
John McCain, writing about his father John McCain Sr. and how he handled his son being a prisoner of War in Vietnam:
I receive a letter once from a retired Army colonel who had been a Cobra helicopter platoon commander in Vietnam. He recounted for me a New Year's Day he had spent unhappily at Quang Tri, having flown a fire team north to guard against violations of the holiday cease-fire. As he ate his lunch and waited miserably for nightfall, a Navy helicopter unexpectedly landed near his Cobra. An officer stepped out of the helicopter, walked to the end of the strip, and remain there for a while.
"One of his pilots came over to us to look at our ships and visit, and one of my warrants remarked, 'Who's that?'-- referring to the officer about fifty yards from us. The Navy pilot said, 'That's Admiral McCain. He has a son up north and this is as close as he can get to him.'"
John McCain writing about another POW that was a hero to him:
Mike was a Navy bombardier-navigator who had been shot down in 1967, about six months before I arrived. He had grown up near Selma, Alabama. His family was poor. He had not worn shoes until he was thirteen years old. Character was their wealth. They were good, righteous people, and they raised Mike to be hardworking and loyal. He was seventeen when he enlisted in the Navy. As a young sailor, he showed promise as a leader and impressed his superiors enough to be offered a commission.
What packages we were allow to receive from our families often contained handkerchiefs, scarves, and other clothing items. For some time, Mike had been taking little scraps of red and white cloth, and with a needle he had fashioned from a piece of bamboo he laboriously sewed an American flag onto the inside of his blue prisoner's shirt. Every afternoon, before we ate our soup, we would hang Mike's flag on the wall of our cell and together recite the Pledge of Allegiance. No other event of the day had as much meaning to us.
The guards discovered Mike's flag one afternoon during a routine inspection and confiscated it. They returned that evening and took Mike outside. For our benefit as much as Mike's, they beat him severely, just outside our cell, puncturing his eardrum and breaking several of his ribs. When they had finished, they dragged him bleeding and nearly senseless back into our cell, and we helped him crawl to his place on the sleeping platform. After things quieted down, we all lay down to go to sleep. Before drifting off, I happened to look toward a corner of the room, where one of the four naked light bulbs that were always illuminated in our cell cast a dim light on Mike Christian. He had crawled there quietly when he thought the rest of us were sleeping. With his eyes nearly swollen shut from the beating, he had quietly picked up his needle and thread an begun sewing a new flag.
I witnessed many acts of heroism in prison, but none braver than that. As I watched him, I felt a surge of pride at serving with him, and an equal measure of humility for lacking that extra ration of courage that distinguished Mike Christian from other men.
There are many more interesting and heart wrenching parts in this book and I would recommend it highly. John McCain is a true American hero and his story deserves to be known.