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Inspiration from a Vietnam War Veteran: “You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end…”

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Published on: March 2, 2021

I was watching a video by Pamela Popper that is titled Inspiration from a Vietnam War Veteran.  One reason to watch is that there is a lot to learn about life here, and the other is that I do not want to misquote Ms. Popper.

The video is about a man named James Stockdale. James Stockdale was an admiral who was shot down and became a prisoner of war in the Hanoi Hilton. That is the nickname that rotten camp was given.

The Hanoi Hilton was well known for the horrible torture that they did there. In 1969, when this use of torture reached its climax, Admiral Stockdale’s captors selected him to use for their propaganda. Knowing he would not be paraded around if he was disfigured, Admiral Stockdale cut his own scalp with a razor, and beat his face with a wooden stool.

After finding out other prisoners had been tortured to death, Admiral Stockdale slashed his wrists to show his captors he would rather die than capitulate to them. After this, the torture stopped. Admiral Stockdale came home in 1973 after 7 ½ years as a prisoner of war. In 1976, Admiral Stockdale was awarded the Medal of Honor.

Admiral Stockdale was asked by Jim Collins how he survived. Admiral Stockdale told him that he never lost faith and never doubted that he would prevail. When asked who did not make it, Admiral Stockdale said “the optimists.” “They would say they would be out by Christmas, and Christmas would come and go. Then Easter, and Easter would come and go. Then it would be Thanksgiving, and Thanksgiving would come and go, and then it would be Christmas again. They ended up dying of a broken heart.”

Admiral Stockdale said, “You must never confuse faith that you will prevail in the end — which you can never afford to lose — with the discipline to confront the most brutal facts of your current reality, whatever they might be.”

This eventually became the Stockdale Paradox. As I said, watch the video. Pam does a better job of telling about it than I do writing about it. I am writing about it so we can build the foundations of thought to apply it to our lives today.

This story brings me back to when I was a young sergeant in the Air Force a couple of years after I left the Army. I had to go to what was called Aircrew Survival Training. Yes, Uncle Sam had a lot of fun parties to which he used to invite me. At this survival training, we had to go through what was called prisoner of war training. In this training, we were told stories about men like Admiral Stockdale so we could learn from what they went through. They eventually put us in a mock prisoner of war camp so we could learn some things through experience.

So, when I tell you I write these articles so you can learn from what I have been through, hopefully without needing to go through what I have gone through, I have a valid point. Believe me, you do not want to go through what those men went through, but you do want to learn some of the things they learned. The problem of this country today is ignorance, plain and simple. Most people do not know what they are talking about. If they do not change soon, they are going to pay a heavy price. Wisdom will not let you defy her forever.  Read Proverbs and you will know what I’m talking about.

Did you notice a similarity in the optimists who Admiral Stockdale said did not make it, and our situation today? We are approaching our one-year anniversary of when our captors said: “two weeks to flatten the curve.” Is it any wonder our children are dying of broken hearts? Remember, the leading cause of death of children 10 to 14 in Ohio is suicide. Suicide is basically dying of a broken heart.

Becoming a defeatist is not a solution either. They can be as bad as the optimists. We are not going to solve the problems caused by our government by believing they are more powerful than they are. Follow Admiral Stockdale’s lead, he did not give his captors control over his mind. That allowed him to control his captors. Enough of the talk that you are going to be forced to take a vaccine, or whatever the latest “they are going to do this to us” is.

Make the commitment to be like Admiral Stockdale, who slashed his wrists to show his captors he would rather die than capitulate to his captors. Be glad things have not become so dire that those extremes are necessary. However, if you do not do something now, those days may come. Do something today while it is still easy. Do not make things harder than they are. The hardest obstacles to overcome are usually in your own mind.

Many people do not realize what they are saying when they use the word “can’t.” I get this when I ask people to become an Emergency Medical Technician. They say, “I can’t do that” when they really mean they won’t do that. If they ever just decided to say, “I will do that,” and then tell us what they did to overcome the obstacles that were in the way of doing what needed to be done, they would realize most failures begin in our own minds.

One of the things I think about when I cannot sleep at night and I lay awake thinking is, what if someday, when I am standing before God, He shows me all the times when my “can’t,” was really “I won’t.” How many times did I defeat myself? When I was in Army Basic Training there were a lot of times that I would have defeated myself, except my sergeant would not let me. He pushed me until “I can’t” became “I will” and then it became “I did.”

Resist the temptation to say “Well, Admiral Stockdale was a hero, I am not a hero.” I do not like how the word hero is now being used. There is a sign in front of a nursing home that said: “Heroes work here.” Well, I believe Admiral Stockdale is a hero, but he did not choose to be a hero. When I say that, I mean Admiral Stockdale did not choose to be shot down, he did choose to do the things that made him a hero.

When my airplane was full of smoke and we thought we were going to die, we just ran our checklists and went home alive. We did what needed to be done in the situation we found ourselves in. I do not want to be called a hero. I have never gone through what Admiral Stockdale did. However, do not let that stop you from rising to the occasion. A hero is just someone who does what needs to be done when it needs to be done. They were ordinary people before they had to rise to the occasion. That is what we need to do today. When I say we, I mean me and you. Let’s get busy.  We have a country to save. https://makeamericansfreeagain.com/

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