Some people tend to get Veterans Day and Memorial Day mixed up.
Veterans Day, which we honor every year on Nov. 11 no matter what day of the week it falls on, is to honor all veterans who served, in war or peacetime, alive or deceased.
Memorial Day always is observed on the last Monday of May each year and is intended to honor those who have given their lives in service to the United States while wearing the uniform of our military branches.
This week I’d like to write about two military heroes I had the pleasure of serving with. They served with distinction and honor above the call of duty. Both of these men where officers in Navy Attack Squadron 36, and they both flew the Navy’s A4D Sky Hawk Attack bomber jet aircraft.
Both were shot down at different times and on different deployments. Both survived the ejections and were imprisoned many years as prisoners of war of the North Vietnamese. One lived to return home after seven years, and, sadly, one died after three years of torture and starvation.
The executive officer of the squadron, Commander James “Jim” Mulligan was shot down on his 80th mission over North Vietnam and held as a prisoner of war for seven years – 41 long months in solitary confinement and 31 of those months in leg irons to prevent his escape, all while being held captive in seven POW camps.
Early in his confinement, he vowed to remember each fellow POW’s name and branch of service that he encountered or heard of being held, so if he survived, those POWs’ families would know they had lived after their capture.
After seven years of confinement, he had memorized more than 300 names and still remembers them today. He was a devout Christian and Catholic and twice daily said his rosary and recited the men’s names in alphabetical order.
He was returned home in February 1973 after the peace agreement, never physically able to fly again, and retired as a captain in 1975. He wrote a book titled “Hanoi Commitment,” which is a great read and can be ordered from any major bookseller. It also may be available at local libraries. He and his wife now live in Virginia Beach, Va., and they still attend all the squadron reunions.
Our squadron line crew division officer when I first joined the squadron as a young enlisted Airman in 1959 was Lt. Ken Cameron. Cameron had flown in Korea, completed his commitment to the Navy and worked for the FBI for several years while fly ing as a reservist on weekends.
He missed the everyday flying and rejoined the Navy, where he was assigned to Attack Squadron 36. He was a very well-liked officer. After a three-year tour with our squadron, Cameron was promoted to commander and served as commanding officer of another A4D squadron.
He was shot down May 18, 1967. He died Oct. 4, 1970, while being tortured and starved to death for not cooperating in propaganda efforts by the enemy. I still wear his POW bracelet in May and October each year to honor his service and celebrate his life and the sacrifices he made for our freedom.
If you have not seen the YouTube video, “Angel Flight (Radio Tower Remix),” check it out – it is very powerful.
Let us all pray for our military and their families every day, and especially thank all the vets you know or encounter on Veterans Day.
Clark is retired from the U.S. Navy and is commander of American Legion Post 164 in Pembroke.