“I fell in love with my country when I was a prisoner in someone else’s. I loved it not for the many comforts of life here. I loved it for its decency, for its faith in wisdom, justice and goodness of its people. I loved it because it was not just a place, but an idea, a cause worth fighting for.” — Senator John McCain, former POW
We all salute our troops who served on Veterans Day and mourn for those who lost their lives on Memorial Day, but what about those who fought to stay alive on foreign soil? Those captured in conflict, were forced to survive on dreams of their country , their comrades, and families to sustain them through torture, malnutrition, and desperate conditions. Hope was the greatest asset of survival to these individuals. More than 83,000 Americans are missing and unaccounted for from WW2 up to the Gulf War. This is why the National League of POW/MIA Families fought to commemorate a separate day as POW/MIA Remembrance Day.
On September 20, 2013 we honor all those who were forced to withstand the merciless conditions of POW camps whether in Germany, Japan, North Vietnam, North Korea, Afghanistan or Iraq. We should remember them and make sure that repatriated survivors and their families know that their sacrifices were not made in vain. In a world where conventional war is a fleeting idea, the POW’s experience still withstands.
Fictionalized accounts of the POW experience in film, novels and television can sometimes white-wash the real life horror experiences. In Showtime’s thriller Homeland, we see the trials and tribulations of Nicholas Brody as he tries to reintegrate into society after being captured and spending eight years in an Iraqi POW camp. His actions of duplicity convey the stress of how being a POW can leave its mark upon an individual.
In the upcoming Jolie film Unbroken, it tells the real-life story of Louis Zamperini who was captured by Japanese forces in WW2. His cunningness and perseverance helped him to survive the ordeal but not without causing serious mental health damage, which resulted in alcohol abuse. These examples, help to show the truth; that these individuals although lucky to be alive, but we will never know the full extent of their struggles.
It is the responsibility of this country to help return these individuals back to land which they swore to protect, and our responsibilities should not end there. We must help them build resiliency so that they can continue to be valuable assets to our society. Days like September 20th are purposeful reminders to our nation to never forget those held on foreign shores against their will.
Service men and women live by the Code of Conduct. They use they words to govern their actions while captured. Where is our American Code of Conduct for helping them get home?
The Code of Conduct
I am an American, fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.
I will never surrender of my own free will. If in command, I will never surrender the members of my command while they still have the means to resist.
If I am captured I will continue to resist by all means available. I will make every effort to escape and to aid others to escape. I will accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy.
If I become a prisoner of war, I will keep faith with my fellow prisoners. I will give no information or take part in any action which might be harmful to my comrades. If I am senior, I will take command. If not, I will obey the lawful orders of those appointed over me and will back them up in every way.
When questioned, should I become a prisoner of war, I am required to give name, rank, service number, and date of birth. I will evade answering further questions to the utmost of my ability. I will make no oral or written statements disloyal to my country and its allies or harmful to their cause.
I will never forget that I am an American, fighting for freedom, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free. I will trust in my God and in the United States of America.