American POWs in Southeast Asia and the Violation of a National Ethic

By Wesley Fryer.

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6. A Black Page in American History

The abandonment of American POWs in Southeast Asia and the failure of the United States government to secure the return of even one of these individuals in the eighteen years since the official prisoner exchange in February 1973 is a continuing violation of the fundamental principles of our nation. The people and servicemen of the United States believe "the war is not over until all the men are back," because simply put: Americans do not abandon Americans. Yet the American government did do just this, and violated the implicit promise it had made to many of its servicemen to bring them home when they became prisoners of war.

America must begin to come to grips with the black page of its history that contains the story of Southeast Asian POWs abandoned after February 1973. If, as retired Navy Captain Eugene "Red" McDaniel and retired Air Force General Robinson Risner claim, hundreds of American servicemen continue to survive as prisoners at the hands of the Southeast Asian communists, time is certainly running out for them. If even a single American remains alive today in Southeast Asia, he should be given the chance to live the rest of his life in freedom. The American ethic regarding POWs was violated during our involvement in Southeast Asia, but it should not be discarded. As Red McDaniel has stated, "To be born free is a gift, to live free a responsibility, to die free an obligation." America owes this much to those who asked "what they could do for their country." These abandoned Americans should now ask what their country can do for them-- and it should bring them home.

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