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Rep. Sam Johnson---Remembering Sybil Stockdale 1924-2015
Posted on January 03, 2016

POW/MIAs Congressman Sam Johnson, Vietnam ex-POW is one of the finest people I have ever met. I have had the honor to be with him on occasions. Former Kentucky governor Ernie Fletcher flew with Congressman Johnson before Mr. Johnson went to Vietnam and was captured by the brutal communists. People like him are a rare breed like the lady he talks about.

Danny "Greasy" Belcher
Task Force Omega of KY Inc, Executive Director
D Troop,7th Sqdn,1St Air Cav.
Infantry Sgt. 68-69

http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/12/sybil-stockdale-obit-213474

They say that behind every great man is a great woman. With the Stockdales, it would be more accurate to say, “Beside Jim was Sybil.” She was a great woman, wife, mother and patriot. And her efforts during the Vietnam War not only helped to bring Jim and me home from captivity, but continue to benefit every American military family today.

Before I ever knew Sybil Stockdale, I knew Commander Jim Stockdale. It was April 1966, my first night in the infamous Vietnam prisoner of war camp known as the Hanoi Hilton, and I had just been placed inside a cramped cell after spending time in the torture room. Jim was on the other side of the wall, along with another Naval aviator, Jeremiah Denton. Jim and I became fast friends that night; he and Jeremiah introduced themselves and taught me the “tap code” we would use to communicate with each other. The three of us, along with eight other prisoners deemed “diehard resistors,” would eventually be kicked out of the Hanoi Hilton and moved into solitary confinement at a North Vietnamese prison dubbed “Alcatraz” for several years. Story Continued Below

The Vietcong did their best to make us feel alone and forgotten, so contact with home was unusual. We had faith that our wives at home were staying strong. What we didn’t know know at first was just how hard they were fighting. For seven and a half years, Sybil fought to keep her family together. She fought to support her four boys. And she fought to force Washington and the country to confront the indifference—if not downright animosity—it showed America’s servicemen, even at a time when POW and MIA families like hers were painfully waiting in limbo.

As a 29-year Air Force veteran, I have seen my fair share of war, and I can say, unequivocally, that Vietnam was unlike any other war we have fought—the treatment of troops during that time not only hurt those returning home, but their families too. At the time, the Defense Department instructed POW families to “keep quiet” about their loved ones’ imprisonment; the Johnson administration argued that negative publicity for the Vietnamese could make matters worse for American POWs. The fact that the Vietcong wasn’t abiding by the Geneva Convention—they were viciously torturing POWS—wasn’t yet public knowledge.

All that changed in large part due to the patriotic activism of Sybil Stockdale. In 1966, a year after Jim had been shot down and captured by the North Vietnamese, Sybil organized a lunch with other POW wives she had made contact with—against DOD policy. From that meeting and under the leadership of Sybil, these heroic women, including my wife, Shirley, formed the National League of POW/MIA Families. They fought honorably for our nation, putting pressure on the Johnson administration to demand that the Vietcong follow the Geneva Convention and bringing public awareness to the plight of America’s POWs.

Sybil in particular demonstrated remarkable gumption. At great risk, she ended up working with the Defense Department to send coded letters to Jim in order to solicit information about the Hanoi Hilton, as well as the status and treatment of other POWs. She also bravely confronted a North Vietnamese delegation at peace talks held in Paris in 1973.

Although the country was divided over the war, Sybil and the group of wives she led were finally able to get Americans to rally behind those of us in the Hanoi Hilton. Because of the pressure our wives put on the Vietcong, the “Alcatraz Gang” was finally removed from solitary, integrated back with our other POW buddies and ultimately brought home in 1973. For her patriotism, Sybil was justly awarded the Navy Distinguished Public Service Award, the highest award given by the Department of the Navy to a citizen.

But her efforts didn’t stop there. A hard worker and an educated woman, with a master’s degree in education from Stanford, Sybil continued to speak out for years to come on behalf of military families with missing loved ones. She also volunteered at the Stanford hospital, and even penned a memoir with Jim, In Love and War. The legacy of Sybil and Jim, who died in 2005, should remind us that no matter the odds, you can persevere when you work together, and no matter the circumstances, faith, family, and a supportive community can make all the difference. Through Sybil, Shirley and the other POW wives, God saved my life and the life of every other Vietnam POW who returned in 1973. Those women are my heroes. Our nation is forever indebted to them—their tireless work should remind us all to ask what we are doing to give back to our great country. God bless Sybil for that and for so much more. I salute her.

Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas) represents Texas’ 3rd congressional district in the U.S. House of Representatives. Read more: http://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2015/12/sybil-stockdale-obit-213474#ixzz3wCVECUXn

 
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