National Former POW Recognition Day
The Texas Veterans Land Board (VLB) honors all those who have been Prisoners of War or POWs in any conflict. Today, April 9, is National Former POW Recognition Day. More than ten thousand Americans have been POWs in war-torn countries around the globe in the past hundred years. Many of these were in the Vietnam War.
Several prisoners became famous after their release, including Texan Sam Johnson, who served in the U.S. Congress for almost three decades after his seven years detainment.
Johnson was born in San Antonio, grew up in Dallas and joined the Air Force after obtaining his bachelors and masters degrees. He served as a fighter pilot, flying dozens of combat air missions in Korea and Vietnam. In 1966, on his 25th mission in Vietnam, he was shot down over North Vietnam and captured, ending up in the infamous Hanoi prison. In his memoir Captive Warriors: A Vietnam POW’s Story, published in 1992, Johnson described his feelings upon arrival:
“I knew I was about to begin fighting as I had never fought before, but without the benefit of the conventional weapons of war. It was psychological warfare. The only offense I had was my stubborn will to resist; my only defense, my wits. Yet I believed I was better equipped to win than were my opponents.”
Johnson would go on to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives for 29 years. He died in 2020.
In December of 2019, a longstanding policy changed at Arlington National Cemetery, which previously had offered full military funeral honors only to officers: a horse-drawn caisson, an escort platoon and a band. Enlisted men could be buried in the National Cemetery, but only with standard honors: a casket team, a firing party, a bugler and a chaplain.
This policy included those who had served as prisoners of war or had received the Medal of Honor, since it was purely based on rank. Kanda Fletcher, the daughter of a former Korean War POW, PFC Robert Fletcher, fought for this change after her father’s death in 2018. Now all former POWs and Medal of Honor recipients, regardless of their military rank, will receive the full measure of a nation’s gratitude.
The VLB salutes each of those who have served as POWs, and their families. Their sacrifice is unique, and we respect them immensely.