March is always an exciting month in my life. It’s the month that more than 300 former Vietnam POWs who came home in the last two groups at the end of the war. This year is the 39th anniversary of our release from the communist cells in Hanoi. Words can’t describe the joy of returning to the “land of the free” after that experience. Freedom has a special meaning for those of us who have lost it and lived under the thumb of tyranny. Looking back, I can see the treasure in those trials and how day by day over those five years, four months and two weeks, I grew into a stronger person.
Resilience in Today’s Culture
Almost anyone who goes through difficulties grows in resilience, and that was a key lesson from our experience. We had to bounce back emotionally and physically many times. Fortunately, the drive to survive was strong in the POW culture. Similarly, in our country today, many people are still facing difficult times due to the economic downturn. Layoffs and lower paying jobs have cut deep into the pocketbooks and the confidence of many of our fellow Americans. This is the time we need to reach out to our neighbors who are in the battle.
In the POW camps, we took great risks to reach out to our friends who were in trouble and in need of encouragement and even sustenance.
In the POW camps, we took great risks to reach out to our friends who were in trouble and in need of encouragement and even sustenance. When my buddy Jon Reynolds had been tortured and denied food for several days, another mate Bob “Percy” Purcell, sent word through the covert communication system, to “stand by for a piece of bread in the afternoon.” After the turnkey and some of the guards headed out for lunch, Percy secretly climbed into the attic, maneuvered over Jon’s room, and loosened the light fixture. Then to Jon’s amazement and encouragement, Percy dropped him a piece of bread through the hole in the ceiling. That’s the kind of support we all need when we are down and struggling—a friend who is willing to take a risk and reach out of his comfort zone to help out.
Be Brave and Reach Out
We are the land of the free and the home of the brave. We are incredibly blessed and one of the responsibilities of those who are blessed is to be a blessing to others. Who needs your encouragement today? How can you reach out and lift their spirits in a difficult time? Think about it. It may as easy as an e-mail or phone call. Or it may be a deeper sacrifice of your time, money, or talent. Whatever comes to your mind, take a risk, be brave and do it. In doing so, you and someone else may gain a little more freedom.