AGING HEROES AT YORBA LINDA


My father and I enjoyed ourselves and who would miss a chance to once again see Bob Hope. I met a few old comrades-in-arms and Ken Wallenford and his delightful wife. We were in the Nixon Library.

We celebrated the twenty fifth anniversary of our return from prison in 1973. Many were absent as they had died or were too ill to attend. Ev Alvarez was the first speaker and he talked of our "legacy." Jim Stockdale spoke and the main speaker was Doctor Henry Kissinger. The White House Chef also spoke.

Ev Alvarez was once again being introduced and touted as America's longest held POW. This is, of course, not true. The more than nine years of captivity of Major Floyd James Thompson is again ignored as if Jim did not exist and his time in prison did not even happen. Ev spoke of our legacy as the only returned servicemen who had been truly honored as "heroes" from the war in Indochina. The legacy of Jim Thompson, US Army Special Forces, was not addressed. Also not addressed were the millions of foot slogging foot soldiers, who fought and died on the cutting edge of that conflict.

Recently on the Internet a new debate has arisen. Total unknowing fools and wannabe experts on POWS and MIAS were declaring that no POWS were returned from Laos and Cambodia or held there. Like the myth of Ev Alvarez as America's longest held POW, we who did our time in the jungle are lumped into the 4th Allied POW Wing and assumed to have only been held in Vietnam.

Twenty seven of us returned from Cambodia to Vietnam on 11 February 1973. Those who claim to be "historians" and ply their inane chatter on the Internet and so called "newsgroups" seem intent on ignoring the true jungle POWS from Cambodia. Some of us had been there for seven years. Only two of us from that group attended the function at the Nixon Library. We had to or, as on the newsgroup, our time in Cambodia would count for nothing.

Only in America could former Privates, college professors and newsmen, get together on the Internet and debate whether American POWS were held in Cambodia. There is no debate, we were there. They rewrite history to their own liking. But I found we returned POWS also do the same.

One of our lesser lights and least decorated POWS, John McCain, is tagged with the title "Hero" in every news release. Medal of Honor winners are ignored. True pilot heroes are ignored and John becomes the symbol of our captivity. He may be the symbol of others captivity but not mine. Of course, according to the "experts" on the newsgroup we were not even there.

Henry Kissinger was the only person to address the MIAS at the Nixon Library. He told the truth. We had not gotten a full accounting. Like Jim Thompson and POWS from Cambodia/Laos, the MIAS do not exist on the newsgroup. Sadly, except for Kissinger, they did not exist in Yorba Linda, California the other night.


Copyright 1998, by Mark A. Smith, Major, USA, Retired

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