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.

Senator John McCain
The Pledge of Allegiance