By Susan Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY–On Tuesday, Governor Robert Bentley presented a proclamation to James Talton, director of Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System designating April 9 as National Former Prisoner of War Recognition Day in Alabama.
Former POWs, their wives and widows, were honored in a ceremony held at the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System building. Former prisoners of war were present representing wars from World War II through the Persian Gulf War.
Mayor Todd Strange was present and an honored speaker at the event.
“When people ask me who are your heroes, all of those men then and now men and women, that puts themselves in harm’s way every hour of every day we have in combat,” said Strange.
He went on to tell about a story that he had read by John McCain telling a story of a prisoner of war from Alabama, Mike Christian, US Navy Navigator who served in a prison cell with McCain. He said that Christian took red scarves, blue shirts and white handkerchiefs then using a bamboo needle stitched an American flag on the inside of his clothing. McCain said that every night all of the soldiers would gather and say the Pledge of Allegiance. When the Vietnamese found out, they took the clothing and severely beat Christian. As McCain closed his eyes to go to sleep that night, he saw Christian, bloody and bruised with his eyes swollen almost completely shut, huddled in a corner with a bamboo needle and more red, white and blue material stitching another flag into his clothing.
Strange said, “Duty, honor, country. Those are easy words to say. But, for those who have lived as a POW and those that have made the ultimate sacrifice, we, today, honor and salute you.”
Governor Bentley was the keynote speaker. Also a veteran, Bentley thanked the servicemen and their families for the service to their country. Bentley said,
“These are true heroes who endured untold hardships and suffered at the hands of brutal enemies. Many prisoners of war experienced physical torture and profound anguish and were subjected to inhumane treatment. Prisoners of war made great sacrifices and have demonstrated an enduring faith in our country. They never gave up. We must always honor their service and their sacrifice.”
Bentley stated that he had attended a Holocaust event earlier and expressed how important he felt it was for children to be taught about the atrocities of war.
“We need to make sure our younger generations know about the sacrifices of our prisoners of war. It is important that they understand that we must never take our freedom for granted.”
A small reception followed allowing the former POWs to meet and have pictures made with the Governor.