This week was the 50th anniversary of the last combat troops leaving Vietnam. Seems like March might just be the month we talk about wars that end up being a conundrum that no one fully understands but I digress. It is crazy to think it's been 50 years since Vietnam, 20 years since we went to Iraq/Afghanistan, and most WWII Veterans have left us but I guess that is what time does...it goes on whether we like it or not.
Time went on for prisoners of war in Vietnam, too. Those men had resolve unknown to most of us and outlasted their captures for years on end. Can you imagine being horrifically beaten and tortured with no end in sight? When these men were captured, I'm sure part of them assumed they'd be rescued in a few days and no more than a few months. We discuss this on today's episode but Chaps' sentiment would probably be shared by some - if they knew they would be prisoners under those brutal conditions for 6 or 7 years they might've found a way to take their own lives.
So then how did they survive? Well, they kept each other laughing. It may have been dark humor at times, but that is what sustained them. We tell some stories on today's show that you wouldn't expect to hear from prisoners of war to include the time John McCain starred as Ebonezer Scrooge in the Hanoi Hilton's production of A Christmas Carol.
We also have a powerful interview with Captain Charlie Plumb, a six year prisoner of war, whose mantra of, "Attitude is the secret to survival" eventually got him home safely.
One thing that is constant in the military is humor. It has been around forever and it is what allows us to power through tough times. By no means did I experience anything remotely close to what the POWs endured but I have a quick example of how the humor transcends generations in the military.
During my deployment to Iraq, I got transferred to a new unit because my battalion commander made a deal with his buddy who was in need of top lieutenant to fill a role in his Cavalry Troop. Some say the trade was reminiscent of Garnett going to the Celtics. Anyway, right before I got there, a young Soldier got in an argument with the Troop's First Sergeant (he was the highest ranking enlisted man on the outpost) and attacked him with a Maglite flashlight. Clocked him pretty good over the head in fact. Left a scar. These are the ones that the dude is always carrying in the movies when he's checking out an abandoned warehouse before he gets attacked.
So I arrived at the Troop at the beginning of November. Thanksgiving rolled around and we had a Turkey Bowl flag football game. Wouldn't you know it, the former D1 Backup QB/Holder could still spin it pretty good. 5 TDs later and I was named MVP of the game and endeared myself to all the Soldiers - It's simple but being physically gifted goes a long way in the military. The MVP trophy? A Maglite flashlight
(Yes, I know the chiseled jaw.)
My troop took something that wasn't great (someone being violently attacked) and turned it into a joke. Is that dark? Absolutely. Does everyone in the military have some version of that story with dark humor? Absolutely.
Humor is the secret weapon in our country's military arsenal always.