Friday, February 4, 2011

The Defining Event

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

Congressional Medal of Honor winner
Vice Admiral James Bond Stockdale
winner of the Medal of Honor and four Silver Stars, 
Vice Presidential Candidate, Annapolis graduate, and
Commander of Air Wing 16 aboard
the carrier USS Oriskany.

Shot down and captured in September 1965, 
his back broken and legs shattered,
he was held prisoner until February 1973.
Seven-and-one-half years.

As the highest-ranking officer, he was singled out for brutal treatment.
During his incarceration, he was held in
solitary for four years, two of which he was in leg irons.

Knowing that he was to be used in a 
propaganda film, he beat his face to a pulp
with a wooden stool, slashed his scalp with a razor, and 
attempted suicide rather than dishonor his country.


When asked if he could tell which of his comrades 
might not survive, he replied, 
""Oh, that’s easy, the optimists. 
Oh, they were the ones who said, 
'We're going to be out by Christmas.' 
And Christmas would come, and Christmas would go. 
Then they'd say, 'We're going to be out by Easter.' 
And Easter would come, and Easter would go. 
And then Thanksgiving, and then it would be Christmas again. 
And they died of a broken heart...
I never lost faith in the end of the story, 
I never doubted not only that I would get out, but 
also that I would prevail in the end and turn the 
experience into the defining event of my life, 
which, in retrospect, I would not trade."