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Honor Bound: American Prisoners of War in…

Honor Bound: American Prisoners of War in Southeast Asia, 1961-1973

by Stuart I. Rochester

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It's been 8 years since I read this, but there is so much in here that I can't get out of my mind. The tapping code that the prisoners in isolation used to communicate with one another -which became so prevalent it sounded as if the prison camp had been infested with a flock of woodpeckers. The "Chrismas Rebellion" when all the prisoners began screaming and trashing their cells to protest their captors' attempts to break the command heirarchy that had formed among the men. In the midst of the shouting and clamor, the ranking officer in the prison shouted "This is building number seven, number seven, number seven. This is building number seven - where the hell is SIX!" I get chills just typing it. The peculiar absense of detail about Sen. McCain's tenure...

A year after reading this, I went to Vietnam and stood outside the Hanoi Hilton - now a superficial and half-hearted museum, with photos of prisoners (including McCain) on the walls. I felt like I had stood inside this book when I was there.

But now 8 years after reading it - an unexpected and peculiar thing has happened. I've been reading so much about the prison at Guantanamo; the mental health problems with the prisoners, their rebellions; their arguments in their Habeas petitions for why they should be released and no longer considered a threat to the United States. And to my own shock, I realize how similar their experiences are to that of our own men in Vietnam. Now I feel as though I'm standing very far outside of that book, looking at something that's growing fainter and more distant with each passing moment. Our soldiers' courage in Vietnam POW camps has inspired me and nourished me for 8 years now. I am a better person for having read this story, and I can't ever forget their sacrifices for us. I don't really even mean Vietnam - I mean for enduring so much suffering and isolation and never for even a second forgetting they were American, they were Honorable, and they wanted to return to the country and find it exactly as they had left it - the place that shaped them. The place they had fought for.

We used to be Honor Bound. What are we now? ( )
  spacecommuter | Jun 11, 2006 |
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