Buried in today's Washington Post is a small article covering the funeral of Admiral James B. Stockdale. Most of us will recall him as the seemingly bumbling and fumbling VP candidate on the ticket with Ross Perot. His philosophical questions of "Who am I? Why am I here?" at the opening of the VP debates were apparently misunderstood, and seared him into the minds of Americans as a senile old coot.
I was one of those people until I learned more about him during his defense of John McCain when his "temperament" for the presidency was questioned. Admiral Stockdale spent 7 and a half years in the Hanoi Hilton, where he was tortured brutally and unceasingly for that entire time. He had a hearing aid at the VP debates (which people found humorous) not because he was old, but because he was beaten so badly by the Viet Cong that he lost his hearing in that ear.
When I learned about all that he did for the other prisoners, and all the unspeakable torture visited upon him because he refused to provide any information to his captors, I felt so ashamed that I had found him to be an object of derisive humor without knowing anything about him.
Admiral Stockdale endured things that I cannot even fathom mentally much less survive if they were done to me. He was an American hero and patriot and clearly a tough-as-nails leader during the worst of circumstances. Where he erred, Dennis Miller once said, was in "committing the ultimate crime in America today, which is being untelegenic." Sad to say, that is true.
So if you are having a drink tonight, say a toast to Admiral Stockdale. Whatever your views on war--Vietnam in particular--this man deserves his due.