Thirty-four years ago today…March 14, 2007
Orson Swindle, who was in the same Hanoi prison as Sen. John McCain during the Vietnam War, today released this letter about his close friend:
Non sibi sed patriae, not self but country, is often mentioned as an unofficial motto of the United States Navy. Being a Marine, I have always been more partial to Semper Fidelis, but I have had the honor and privilege of serving in the company of Navy men for whom that motto, whether official or not, is a way of life. My friend and former cellmate in Vietnam, John McCain, is one of those men.
Thirty-four years ago today, on March 14, 1973, John McCain and hundreds of other prisoners of war were released from Hanoi and began the trip home. My repatriation from Hanoi was a week earlier, having been shot down a year before John. I will never forget the feeling of relief and joy upon stepping into an American aircraft with my fellow countrymen to begin that journey home.
Things could have been very different for John. The son and grandson of Navy Admirals, the North Vietnamese quickly realized when they captured him that they had a special prisoner from a distinguished military family. In an effort to embarrass us and our country, they offered John early release. John consistently refused those offers, understanding that freedom without honor was not worth having. He kept faith with us, his fellow POWs, and stood by the Code of Conduct through which we pledged “I will accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy.” Because of his dedication to principle, the North Vietnamese made his life a living hell for a number of years.
I was fortunate to know John in prison, and we have remained the closest of friends. His refusal of early release, his constant resistance, and his undying sense of humor were traits we all admired. We were inspired by his commitment to honor and encouraged by his sense of humor. His commitment to principles, straight talk, and honesty in Washington continues to inspire us today. I could never have imagined all those years ago that one day the man sharing a concrete slab for a bed next to me would be a candidate for President of the United States. I am very proud to stand next to him today.
As our country battles a new kind of evil and our fighting men and women take the battle to the terrorist, making incredible sacrifices in their efforts, I think back to those days in Hanoi, back to the experiences that have shaped my life ever since. My friend, John, has been tested through circumstance and fire, has met the challenge, and he is prepared to lead America in difficult times ahead. No one is better qualified to be Commander in Chief. He has made me proud over the years, and I know he will do the same for us all as President.
Today is a special day for John and hundreds of us who were POWs in Vietnam. I hope you will join me in remembering those who have served this great country, especially those who today fight for our freedom and safety in foreign lands. We are proud of their service. We honor their sacrifice, and look forward to the day their mission is accomplished and they too will return with honor.
Lieutenant Colonel, United States Marine Corps (ret)
And the accompanying video is truly moving: