American Patriots Unsung Magazine Issue 6 - Page 126

126 acknowledgement that fear exists, but something we must set aside if we have any chance of saving ourselves and others. Not every act of courage is rewarded with the outcome we want, ask Latimer and Ridley… they died, but in the “doing,” we find the honorable character of courage, selflessness, faith, and love. Risner is well known for his leadership as a prisoner of war during Vietnam. As the highest ranking military officer captured and held captive during the war, Robinson was singled out by the enemy for excessive torture and abuse. Prior to capture, Robinson led the first flight of Operation Rolling Thunder, a high-intensity aerial bombing of North Vietnam. He received the Air Force Cross for leading air strikes against a strategic bridge in North Vietnam. In one of the 55 missions he flew over Vietnam, Robinson was forced in the Tonkin Gulf where he was rescued without injury or incident. “In five missions in a single week,” he once recalled, “my plane was hit by anti-aircraft fire four times.” In September 1965, Robinson’s luck ran out when his F-105 fighter was hit by ground fire and he was forced to bail out and was immediately taken captive. A story about Robinson in Time Magazine made him one of the highest profile U.S. prisoners of the Vietnam War and the enemy captors with the advanced knowledge of virtually everything about him. Risner would spend more than seven years in Hoa Lo prison, called the “Hanoi Hilton” by Americans held captive there. In his book, The Passing of the Night: Seven Years as a Prisoner of the North Vietnamese Risner says that he never asked God to take him out of his situation: “I prayed he would give me strength to endure it.” God did. Risner set up committees and assigned tasks and helped set up communication systems through tapping, scraping walls, and even coughing. Some prisoners reconstructed an abbreviated version of the Bible from memory. Others were tortured and never seen again. “Our captors,” he said after his release, “would tie our wrists behind our back . . . and force our head and shoulders down until our feet or your toes were in our mouth. They would leave us in this position until we acquiesced or got whatever information they were hoping to get. I myself have screamed all night.” Shackled for weeks at a time and after spending more than three years in a darkened, solitary cell, he told other prisoners to “resist until you are tortured, but never [to] lose your capacity to reason or think.” At the United States Air Force Academy there is a 9-foot tall statue of him that was bought and paid for by billionaire businessman and onetime presidential candidate H. Ross Perot. It stands as a tribute to Risner and his leadership among those under him. The statue 127 DIVINE APPOINTMENT