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Letter: McCain comment off-base

My politics differ from that of John McCain, and I may not vote for him should he win the Republican nomination. Nevertheless, I was appalled by the letter written by Barry Simmers that appeared in the Daily on February 15. I don’t know what would compel Mr. Simmers to write such a revolting letter, but regardless of the reason, two things are certain: First it’s his prerogative and secondly, his attempt to diminish the Senator in the manner he did is reprehensible.

Webster’s defines a hero as “a man of distinguished service or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities.” So what would you call someone who spent five-and-a-half years in captivity in North Vietnam under the most horrific conditions imaginable; much of it in solitary confinement, with multiple injuries that were left untreated for months? Among the torture methods endured by American prisoners at the Hoa Lo Prison, aka the ‘Hanoi Hilton,’ and casually referenced by Mr. Simmers were:

Bamboo slivers pushed under finger nails; electric shocks; being forced to walk on their knees over broken glass; the infamous Vietnamese “rope trick” that left prisoners unable to lift their hands for weeks at a time due to nerve damage; having hands handcuffed behind their back at night and not allowed to use mosquito netting in hot, fetid, insect infested cells; having wrists and elbows manacled together for days at a time; having an iron bar forced into their mouths to stifle their screams; being manacled to a concrete slab and being forced to live in their own urine and excrement; being tied upright on a stool for hours until they would pass out; having their feet put into metal stocks for days; having upper arms bound behind their backs and then rotated over their heads until their shoulders popped out of their sockets; living in irons for months; being hung upside down from the rafters and then beaten until unconscious, and being forced to live on a diet so sparse that most lost 40 to 50 pounds during their first months in captivity.

When the North Vietnamese offered him an early release from prison because of his father’s position ” Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Command ” he refused because he saw it as a public relations stunt by his captors. He insisted that POWs held longer than him should be granted their freedom first. Because of his “intransigence,” then Lt. McCain was beaten mercilessly for months on end and the torture intensified.

What Mr. Simmers fails to mention was that due the integrity and intestinal fortitude the Senator displayed by not accepting early release, he was an inspiration to dozens upon dozens of his fellow prisoners under the most trying circumstances imaginable.

Senator McCain was the recipient of the Silver Star, Bronze Star, Distinguished Flying Cross, Legion of Merit and the Purple Heart for wounds sustained in combat. If all of the above doesn’t qualify John McCain as a hero, then the word needs to be redefined.

Mr. Simmers indicated he was in the Navy for three years; perhaps he too has a record of distinguished service earned in combat and/or under similarly difficult circumstances. But even if he does, it does not entitle him to denigrate a legitimate American hero.


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