Friday, February 26, 2016


Stepped into the clearing at the end of the path. He was an Air Force officer who was shot down on his 112th mission over Vietnam. He endured over 2000 days of captivity. Of course, it was never ever over 2000 days, it was 2,487 days of captivity. 7 years. It wasn't really 7 years. It was 2,487 days. One doesn't count the days until they really count.
Captain - United States Air Force
Shot Down: April 24, 1966
Released: February 12, 1973
My military service started when I entered the United States Air Force Academy
in June 1959, graduating on June 5, 1963. In October 1965 I volunteered to go
to Southeast Asia. On April 24, 1966, on my 11 2th combat mission, my F-105
jet fighter bomber was shot down. When I was on the ground my helmet was
ripped off and I had cuts all over. Twenty people surrounded me, some with
guns and some with bamboo sticks. You know, a sharpened bamboo stock will kill
you as fast as a gun. I had a sprained ankle and a twisted knee. I never once
saw a doctor, but the body has great recuperative powers when given a chance.
On July 6, 1966 I was the head of the second group of the infamous "street
march". It got out of hand. They were a raging mob, throwing sticks at us. I
was punched and kicked; it got so bad it was even a matter of survival for our
There are still circular scars on my wrists which will serve as a life-long
reminder of the torture endured in the ancient French walled prison in the
center of Hanoi. This was the one dubbed the Hanoi Hilton.
I had learned at the Air Force Academy never to make a harmful statement about
your country, but I was also told "Don't let them do any permanent damage to
you." When I kept telling my captors I would never sign their statements, they
forced me to sit on a pile of bricks for 24 and 48 hour periods, hands
handcuffed behind my back and then hoisted up to the shoulder blades. They
would then twist the handcuff chains as tight as they could. Then they would
make me lie on my stomach while they pounded the handcuffs tighter with their
feet. If you brought your hands down at all, the handcuffs would cut deep into
your wrists.
Once I sat like that for 90 hours, with no sleep. I passed out. I still would
not sign, so they used ropes to bring the elbows together behind my back and
cut off the circulation. I lasted six days like that, with the cuffs and
ropes. That's when I thought I would go crazy-I signed an apology for dropping
bombs over their land.
I kept in shape with push-ups and lifting weights made by rolling a bunch of
our bed mats (made of elephant grass) together. We were given three cigarets a
day, and later, six. That was the only warmth in the place. There was no heat
even in the winter. It got very cold.
When one is placed in the situation we experienced in North Vietnam, there
comes the great, painful realization that what we all take so much for granted
is no longer available. In such a situation you can't help but appreciate what
we have in this great country of ours. That appreciation became even greater
when, after seven years of living under Communism, I returned to find a very
grateful nation welcoming us as we stepped off the airplane. 
There is but one word which best describes the United States of
Jerry Driscoll retired from the United States Air Force as a Colonel. He and
his wife Sharon reside in Minnesota.
I think there is shade over there under those trees and, if you should pause for just a bit, a beer fairy will be along in her golf cart and offer you something fit for heroes.

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