Fellow P.O.W. remembers John McCain

- In his autobiography, "I'm No Hero," Charlie Plumb, a decorated war vet and former P.O.W. sets out to prove he does not deserve the title of hero.

Respectfully, sir, I must disagree.

I spent the afternoon with Captain Charlie Plumb and his lovely wife Susan in Westlake Village. We were here to talk about the passing of Senator John McCain.

It was a beautiful sun-swept day. We began our conversation with Charlie taking me into his office. On display were a couple of simple, modest objects. A worn tin cup, and crude spoon. Their significance? They are powerful reminders of the nearly six years Plumb spent in a North Vietnam P.O.W. camp. The cup gave prisoners a means to hold their daily ration of rice and water. (Plumb's cup was so beat up, he used ear wax to patch it.)

Charlie shrank to just 115 pounds. Captain Plumb told me he was shot down by a surface to air missile in May of 1967 and taken into captivity. The stories of torture, degradation and isolation inside those prison walls, are well documented in history. Several months into his captivity a new prisoner was brought into the camp on a stretcher, he was so bloodied his identity was tough to make out. The man on the stretcher turned out to be the future senator, John McCain.

It wasn't the first time the lives of these two men intersected. McCain had been Plumb's flight instructor at the Naval Academy in Annapolis. Plumb credited McCain with teaching him life saving techniques valuable both in and out of the plane.

McCain drilled into his men the importance of discipline; the importance of sticking to a plan. That same mental toughness would help these prisoners to survive these violent torture dens. According to Plumb, McCain was near death when he was brought into the camp.

McCain would eventually grow stronger and was subjected to daily torture sessions. As a senior officer, McCain set an example of stoicism, and cautioned his men, "We are not victims....we are warriors and we will fight to our last dying breath."

Plumb said these words, communicated by tapping on the prison wall gave him and his fellow captives purpose. Behind these prison walls, a chain of command was adhered to. He and his fellow prisoners of war looked to McCain and other senior officers as an example of how to survive and persevere.

I was humbled to be in the presence of Captain Charlie Plumb as we honor the storied life of Senator John McCain.

I will always remember holding that small, damaged tin cup. It represents the indomitable human spirit in the face of adversity. It represents hope in the face of none. It represents the enduring legacy of Senator John McCain.

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