- The Washington Times - Monday, January 9, 2006

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

HR 2369 (Honor Our Fallen Prisoners of War Act) would recognize our departed American heroes who can no longer speak out for themselves. It is therefore incumbent on each and every one of us to champion their memory.

The passage of this legislation is not a partisan issue — it is rather a matter of true Americanism and respect. And regardless of our political affiliations, the brave souls who expired in the depravity of prisoner-of-war camps were all truly our brothers.

Who could possibly claim that paying this one last honor to our departed American POWs is not in order? The gallant American service personnel who died in these enemy prisoner-of-war camps from December 7, 1941, to the present, and indeed even into the future certainly deserve this final recognition. Contrary to popular belief, most of those who expired as prisoners of war from starvation, beatings, exposure, medical neglect, dysentery and other fatal causes did not receive a posthumous Purple Heart medal.

As such, I implore you all to put aside any political differences for a moment and embrace a patriotic issue that transcends politics. Let our voices echo forth in unity, and let us forever proclaim: “We shall never forget.”

HR 2369, the Honor Our Fallen Prisoners of War Act, is sitting before the House Armed Services Committee. The entire text can be viewed at www.house.gov. Then scroll down to find bill or law, click onto the link, and then type in HR 2369. I feel that once you and your readers have read this bill, you will be touched by the words and sentiment of this long-overdue legislation.

Your help in quickly backing this bill is greatly needed. Can we and our fallen comrades count upon your assistance in getting this bill passed into law?

Many veteran service organizations and members of Congress have voiced their support for this bill. Is it not time for us all to prove that we are worthy of the ultimate sacrifices made by these fallen American patriots?

H. Rick and Brenda Tavares

(Mrs. Tavares is the niece of Corp. Melvin Morgan of the 24th Infantry Division, who died Dec. 6, 1950, in a North Korean POW camp from starvation and beatings.)

Dear Rick and Brenda:

I wholeheartedly support HR 2369, which will bestow the Purple Heart posthumously on these fallen heroes. I urge everyone to read good friend Everet Alvarez’s “Chained Eagle.”

On Aug. 5, 1964, while Lt. (jg) Everett Alvarez was flying a retaliatory air strike against naval targets in North Vietnam, anti-aircraft fire crippled his A-4 fighter-bomber, forcing him to eject over water at low altitude.

Lt. Alvarez relates the engrossing tale of his capture by fishermen, brutal treatment by the North Vietnamese, physical and mental endurance, and triumphant repatriation nearly nine years later in 1973.

Lt. Alvarez spent more time as a prisoner of war in Vietnam than any other flier. As Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican and a fellow POW, has written, “During his captivity, Ev exhibited a courage, compassion, and indomitable will that was an inspiration to us all.”

The book, which was co-authored with Anthony S. Pitch, is remarkable for its lack of rancor. Lt. Alvarez directs his strongest words against the small number of POWs who broke ranks and collaborated with the enemy. As one reviewer wrote, Lt. Alvarez “relates the misery of his condition with a detachment that robs it of its shock value.”

“Chained Eagle” also tells the story of the Alvarez family’s ordeal during his years of imprisonment. His sister became an anti-war activist, his wife divorced him and relatives died. Yet throughout his time as a prisoner of war, Lt. Alvarez remained duty-bound and held steadfast to his religious faith and the values enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.

Anyone wishing to order Ev’s heart-wrenching narrative can e-mail: Dana@booksintl.com or visit the Web site www.potomacbooksinc.com.

Also on the must-read list is “Open Doors,” which is a tribute to Vietnam prisoners of war and their individual determination in seeking personal and professional happiness upon their release. It is a testament to the strength of the human spirit and will.

While POWs’ experience in captivity has been well-documented, historians have largely overlooked their current lives. Combining photo portraits and insightful profiles of 30 Vietnam-era POWs, Jamie Howren and Taylor Baldwin Kiland offer an intimate look at these men — the longest-held group of returned POWs in our nation’s history — as husbands, fathers, sons, brothers and grandfathers.

Subjects include the famous — Mr. McCain and Vice Adm. James Stockdale, a former vice-presidential candidate — and the not-so-famous. Most of them have flourished in the face of great challenges, demonstrating a remarkable amount of resilience.

The book is based on a traveling photographic exhibit that has been covered in national media, including the NBC “Nightly News” (November 2002), CNN (January 2004) and Parade magazine (November 2003). Rather than dwell on the torture and suffering of the POWs’ years in captivity, “Open Doors” celebrates the years of freedom and personal achievement that followed their return to the United States.

Send letters to Sgt. Shaft, c/o John Fales, PO Box 65900, Washington, D.C. 20035-5900; fax 301/622-3330; call 202/257-5446; or e-mail sgtshaft@bavf.org.

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