Out in the darkness in the jungles of Vietnam, a quick but piercing scream is heard. It is a cry of anguish, a cry of desperation, and a cry of loyalty. Silence follows the rest of the night.
James V Leonard is forty-seven years old. He is a prisoner of war. He had been a fighter pilot in the Vietnam war. His plane had been shot down. He managed to escape death by parachuting out of the falling craft only to be captured by the enemy. He was twenty-three at the time of his capture.
James was an officer in the Air Force. He refused to flee to Canada like many were doing. He had been married a little over eight months. He was twenty-two. Little did he know as he kissed his four month pregnant wife goodbye that he would never see her again.
He was a brave pilot. He made many a dangerous runs. He had put his life in danger many times for his comrades. It was because he was helping a comrade that he was shot down.
He was twenty three when he reached his POW camp . He had been there for twenty -four years. His only exercise was a daily walk in the morning. His captors did not want him dead. They kept him alive for political reasons only.
His day was routine. It never changed. He was awakened at 4:30 for his morning walk. He was back at 5:00. He had until 5:30 to clean himself up. At 5:30 he had to watch the North Vietnam flag be raised. He would always refuse to salute the flag. The rest of the day until 19:00 he would go through various questionings. If he did not answer the questions in the correct response, which he never did, he would be beaten and ridiculed. James was a strong and loyal American. He never denounced his country. He never blamed his county for his fate. He felt for sure and proud he would die for this country.
From 19:00 hours on he was in his "apartment" The "apartment" was actually a bamboo cage. There was enough room for about two people, but only one could fit comfortably. He was given his one meal of the day around 20:30. His meal consisted of the scraps from his captors feast. He could be beaten at any time while in his "apartment".
One day, James's schedule was changed. No one came for him in the morning or in the afternoon. It was around 17:45 when the door to his cell was opened. Instead of being roughly dragged out of the cell, he wasn't even touched. A beaten, bloody man was thrown in. The door slammed shut and was locked. James helped the stranger to a laying position. The stranger blacked out.
Two days later, after James returned from his normal routine schedule, he found the stranger was up and alert. Slowly the stranger started talking. "His name was Captain L. Martin. He had been sent to Vietnam to find the location of POW Camps. If he failed to report in the days, the US
army, Air Force and Marines would raid the camp. The Armed forces knew his exact location.
The next morning, James could barely conceal his excitement. Between 14:00 and 17:00 hours, he knew that the Armed Forces would attack. Freedom, Oh the thought brought smiles to his face and tears to his
eyes and prayed that he could survive the attack.
Precisely at 15:23, the camp was attacked. James and Mark ran for their lives, but they were separated. James was out of shape. He fell. By the time he could get up, one of his captors had pulled him up and used him as a shield. James felt for sure that his fantasy had vanished. He was back in his nightmares.
James hoped that he could just be shot. He knew he could not survive if it meant being a prisoner again. Suddenly, he was released. James turned around. His captor laid dead on the ground. A green beret walked up to him and escorted him to safety.
A day later James was at the Lark Air Force base being medically examined. He was underweight, had malnutrition, and was stressed. Other than that, he had a clean bill of health. Captain Martian came to visit James. He brought along the soldier who had shot James's captor. Mark told him he had something important to tell him. He told James of his wife's death. He also told him of the birth of his son twenty-four years earlier. James started to cry. Mark presented James with medical records. James was confused. The soldier stepped forward and spoke. His name was SSG Kennith T Leonard. He was James's son. James and Kennith
embraced. Kennith had saved a POWs life and by doing so he had gained his father.
Written January 8, 1992
Dedicated to all the POWs and their families throughout the world. I hope and Pray that you
will be released soon.