Tonight, the U.S. House of Representatives commemorates the 40 year anniversary of "Operation Homecoming," which released the longest held Prisoners of War (POWs) as well as those needing urgent medical attention from Vietnam. The House marked the occasion by dedicating a special order to all POWs and Congressman Sam Johnson (TX-03), the only POW in the House of Representatives in the 113th Congress.
Johnson's colleagues honoring his release and service included House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (VA-07), Congressman Michael Burgess (TX-26), John Carter (TX-31), Michael Conaway (TX-11), Blake Farenthold (TX-27), Bill Flores (TX-17), Louie Gohmert (TX-01), Kay Granger (TX-12), Ralph Hall (TX-04), Jeb Hensarling (TX-05), Randy Neugebauer (TX-19), Pete Olson (TX-22), Ted Poe (TX- 02), Lamar Smith (TX-21), Pete Sessions (TX-32), Steve Stockman (TX-36), and Roger Williams (TX-25).
"It is an honor and privilege to continue serving our country, and particularly the great state of Texas. I truly appreciate the kind words expressed by each of my colleagues tonight. I still think about my days in Vietnam, and pray for those who currently find themselves in harm's way to protect our freedoms," said Johnson.
On February 12, 1973, POWs were released to U.S. officials near Hanoi, North Vietnam under the terms of the cease-fire agreement.
This taste of freedom was a long time coming for Johnson who was captured during his second tour in Vietnam and spent nearly seven years as a POW. Shot down at dusk over North Vietnam during his 25th combat mission on April 16, 1966, Johnson suffered a broken right arm, dislocated left shoulder and a broken back. It was these injuries that the enemy captors would use in their fruitless efforts to glean information from Johnson.
Forced into solitary confinement for 42 months, labeled as a "die-hard" resister and subjected to tremendous suffering, Johnson consistently demonstrated a relentless devotion to duty, honor and country. "The one thing I want to remind everyone is that freedom isn't free," concluded Johnson.
Johnson urges States and localities to honor the courage and sacrifice of men and women in uniform. Johnson takes this opportunity to encourage all veterans of all wars to share their stories. In particular, Johnson advocates that veterans or children of veterans participate in the nationwide Library of Congress program, The Veterans History Project. To learn more about this important initiative, go to www.loc.gov/folklife/vets/