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John McCain, the Hanoi Hilton and public virtue

Sen. John McCain, who passed away on August 25, is undeniably the most famous prisoner of war held captive and tortured by the North Vietnamese. McCain was one of 591 Americans returned by North Vietnam over several months during “Operation Homecoming” in 1973. But in our current politicized era, McCain’s fame somewhat overshadows the leadership and lessons of many other great Americans tortured by their Marxist captors. Virtually all of them were aviators, and many never flew again, their bodies too twisted and ravaged for the cockpit. Many of them languished so long in North Vietnamese prisons that they came back to an entirely different America that, for them, offered up shocking images of moral and cultural decline.

The legacy and witness left by these warriors are not about power or politics, but service and sacrifice. “Leading with honor is about doing the right thing, even when it entails personal sacrifice,” writes former POW Lee Edwards.

In a country starving for truth, a new generation of Americans would be wise to acquaint themselves with the testimony of why such sacrifice produced unity and greatness against enormous odds. One can hope that much of the enormous outpouring of deserved gratitude and respect for McCain can transcend politics and move the nation towards a life of sacrifice in the service of something far greater.

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Walmart’s T-shirt homage to mass murder

The Day of Remembrance marks the infamous Molotov - Ribbentrop Pact on August 23, 1939, which divided Europe between Hitler and Stalin and paved the way to World War II. Many do not realize that both national socialism, or Nazism, and communism shared the idea that everything was permissible for the good of the cause – everything from martial law to confiscations, occupations, arrests, torture and murder.

Some have excused the crimes of Stalin because he ultimately fought against Nazi Germany. Stalin and Hitler had much blood on their hands – basically two sides of one filthy coin – yet only one side seems to be etched into the memory of humankind.

Against this background it is extremely concerning and offensive to find Walmart and other retailers promoting what they call “cool shirts,“ bright, red tees emblazoned with the Soviet hammer and sickle. Making light of the atrocities committed under and in the name of communism shows ignorance and callousness.

As an Estonian-American living in Europe, I am embarrassed and pained. It is impossible to explain such flippancy to people here, many of whom suffered under communism. People are beginning to think that it is true – Americans care only about making money. I have a hard time convincing them of the America and Americans I know and love, their values and principles, their bravery and willingness to help the downtrodden and oppressed.

The executioners killed their victims twice: first by taking their lives and second by erasing the memory of them and their fate. This is why it is important to remember. We cannot undo the first killing, but we can undo the second.

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