John McCain arrived at Jackson Naval Air Station on March 18, 1973, after being released from a Vietnamese prison. (AP file photo via USA Today)
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On this date 40 years ago, John McCain and 107 of his military brothers were released from a Vietnamese prison.
The Arizona senator marked the anniversary of his release as a prisoner of war in a somber op-ed in The Wall Street Journal published Thursday. The commentary reflected on the friendships he forged with his fellow POWs, as well as with the Vietnamese people since his release, and his hopes for human rights improvements by the country’s Communist government.
“I’ve made friends with people who were once my enemies. I’ve become fond of a place I once detested,” wrote McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee.
“And yet, when it comes to the values that Americans hold dear — freedom, human rights and the rule of law — our highest hopes for Vietnam still remain largely just hopes,” he said. “The government in Hanoi still imprisons and mistreats peaceful dissidents, journalists, bloggers and ethnic and religious minorities for political reasons.”
McCain spent 5½ years in the prison nicknamed the “Hanoi Hilton” and is one of only two Vietnam-era POWs still in Congress.
The other is Rep. Sam Johnson, R-Texas, who spent nearly seven years in captivity — and more than half of that time in solitary confinement. The House honored Johnson’s release last month in a series of speeches known as a special order