"The Pledge of Allegiance"

by The Honorable Senator John McCain


As you may know, I spent five and one half years as a prisoner of war during the Vietnam War. In the early years of our imprisonment, the NVA kept us in solitary confinement or two or three to a cell.

In 1971 the NVA moved us from these conditions of isolation into large rooms with as many as 30 to 40 men to a room. This was, as you can imagine, a wonderful change and was a direct result of the efforts of millions of Americans on behalf of a few hundred POWs 10,000 miles from home.

One of the men who moved into my room was a young man named Mike Christian.

Mike came from a small town near Selma, Alabama. He didn't wear a pair of shoes until he was 13-years old. At 17, he enlisted in the US Navy. He later earned a commission by going to Officer Training School.

Then he became a Naval Flight Officer and was shot down and captured in 1967. Mike had a keen and deep appreciation of the opportunities this country and our military provide for people who want to work and want to succeed. As part of the change in treatment, the Vietnamese allowed some prisoners to receive packages from home.

In some of these packages were handkerchiefs, scarves, and other items of clothing. Mike got himself a bamboo needle. Over a period of a couple of months, he created an American flag and sewed on the inside of his shirt. Every afternoon, before we had a bowl of soup, we would hang Mike's shirt on the wall of the cell and say the Pledge of Allegiance. I know the Pledge of Allegiance may not seem the most important part of our day now, but I can assure you that in that stark cell it was indeed the most important and meaningful event.

One day the Vietnamese searched our cell, as they did periodically, and discovered Mike's shirt with the flag sewn inside and removed it. That evening they returned, opened the door of the cell, and for the benefit of all of us beat Mike Christian severely for the next couple of hours.

Then, they opened the door of the cell and threw him in.

We cleaned him up as well as we could. The cell in which we lived had a concrete slab in the middle on which we slept. Four naked light bulbs hung in each corner of the room. As I said, we tried to clean up Mike as well as we could. After the excitement died down, I looked in the corner of the room, and sitting there beneath that dim light bulb with a piece of red cloth, another shirt and his bamboo needle, was my friend, Mike Christian.

He was sitting there with his eyes almost shut from the beating he had received, making another American flag. He was not making the flag because it made Mike Christian feel better. He was making that flag because he knew how important it was to us to be able to Pledge our allegiance to our flag and country.

So the next time you say the Pledge of Allegiance, you must never forget the sacrifice and courage that thousands of Americans have made to build our nation and promote freedom around the world.

You must remember our duty, our honor, and our country.

"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."

I thought you might like to know what happened to this patriot:

Additional facts on Lieutenant Commander Michael Christian, U.S. Navy (Retired) Purdue University Class of 1964, Lieutenant Commander Christian, includes that he enlisted in the Navy in 1955 and served as an aviation electronics technician. He was accepted into the Navy Enlisted Scientific Education Program in 1959. He entered Purdue University in 1960 and earned a B.S. in Electrical Engineering in 1964.

Upon commissioning, he served on the USS Dahlgren (DLG-12) until his flight training began. He attended naval flight officer training and after receiving his "Wings of Gold" was assigned to Attack Squadron 85 at Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia, serving as a bombardier/navigator in the A-6 Intruder.

While deployed with VA-85 on USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63) to the Gulf of Ton-kin, he was shot down April 24, 1967. He was captured and held prisoner until his release on March 4, 1973. He was a POW for almost six years at various camps, including the Hao Lo POW Camp, which was better known as the Hanoi Hilton.

Upon his return, Lieutenant Commander Christian attended Old Dominion University where he received a Master of Science degree. He retired on February 1, 1978, following a tour at Naval Air Station, Oceana, Virginia.

He died in a tragic accident on Sept. 4, 1983.

This story is true! - See John McCain's POW Story About The Pledge Of Allegiance



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