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Independence Day Past and Present

Past - Mike Christian was born on October 17, 1940, in Huntsville, Alabama, and enlisted in the United States Navy at the age of 17.

Present, July 4, 2020 - 461st Air Control Wing members deployed in the theater with their JSTARS aircraft.

Mike Christian had a humble upbringing, and according to Senator John McCain (who served with Mike), he did not even have a pair of shoes until he was 13 years old. Mike Christian initially trained and worked as an aircraft mechanic and aviation electronics technician in the Navy. He earned a Bachelor’s Degree from Purdue University while serving in the Navy and continuously proved himself through his dedication, patriotism, and ambition. He was accepted and entered the Naval Flight Officer Training School at Pensacola, Florida, where he earned a commission as a Naval Officer and Aviator. He became the Navigator-Bombardier on an A-6 “Intruder” assigned aboard the USS Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier and sailed for duty in Vietnam in February 1967. Within a month, Mike was flying combat missions over North Vietnam. On April 24, 1967, his A-6 Intruder was shot down by anti-aircraft fire, and he was forced to eject and captured. Mike spent 2,141 days (almost six years) as a Prisoner-of-War in the infamous Hanoi Hilton,’ a dilapidated old prison used to confine American Prisoners by the North Vietnamese.

Conditions in the Hanoi Hilton were cruel, brutal, depriving, isolating, and of the harshest circumstances. While in the prison yard one day, Mike Christian found a dirty old white handkerchief in a drainage pipe that he smuggled back to his cell. He planned to make an American Flag from this. His fellow prisoners saw Mike spending days cleaning up the dirty handkerchief making it as white as he possibly could. He then used blue ink to create the field, ground-up roof tile rubble to make a red dye for the bars, and sewed in the fifty stars with a makeshift fashioned bamboo needle and white threads from his prison blanket. Once the Flag was created, Mike stitched it inside of his shirt.

According to Senator John McCain, who shared a cell with Mike Christian, “It was the practice of the prisoners that every afternoon before they got their ration of soup, they would hang Mike’s shirt on the wall and recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Repeating the Pledge of Allegiance may not be an essential part of the average American day, but for those men in that stark prison cell, it was their day’s most important and meaningful event.

One day, the Vietnamese searched the cell and discovered Mike’s shirt with the Flag sewn inside. They removed it, and him, and for the “benefit” of the other prisoners, beat Mike Christian severely for hours. His cell had a concrete slab on which the men slept and a naked light bulb in each corner of the room. After things had quieted for the evening, in the corner of the room, sitting beneath that dimly lit bulb with a piece of white cloth, a part of red cloth, another blue shirt, and his bamboo needle, was Mike Christian. His eyes almost swollen shut from the beating, he was fashioning another American flag. he knew how important it was for his fellow prisoners to pledge allegiance to our Flag and our country.

Lieutenant Commander Mike Christian was liberated as a Prisoner-of-War on March 4, 1973. Christian died from smoke inhalation in a Virginia Beach, Va., fire in September 1983.

Story shared by cdkeith06


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