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Vietnam war hero to be honored at Mt. Soledad

Rear Admiral Jeremiah A. Denton (ret.), a decorated Vietnam war hero will be honored today at 1 p.m. at the Mt. Soledad National Veterans Memorial.

Denton, who survived 7 years and 7 months as a prisoner of war, and was the first American to serve four years in solitary confinement for his refusal to renounce his country despite brutal torture, will be honored by dedication of a plaque.

“We believe it is altogether fitting that we join together to honor Rear Admiral Jeremiah A. Denton, and through him all former prisoners of war, and the missing in action, and their families, on POW/MIA Day 2008, the 35th anniversary year of the return home from Vietnam of the American prisoners of war who served and sacrificed so greatly in defense of America,” said The Thomas More Law Center and The American Legion Department of California, in a joint statement as co-sponsors of the event honoring Denton.

Denton, a Navy combat pilot who was shot down on July 18, 1965, and remained a prisoner of war until Feb.15, 1973, came to national attention first when he frustrated an attempt by his North Vietnamese Communist captors to use him for propaganda purposes in a Japanese television broadcast. Denton blinked “T-O-R-T-U-R-E” in Morse Code and not only refused to denounce his country, but defiantly swore he would always bear allegiance to America.

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When finally brought home, Denton was awarded the Navy Cross and the Distinguished Service Medal, among a host other decorations for valor.

Denton detailed his experience in his book, “When Hell Was In Session.”

On the return of the POWs home to America on February 15, 1973, Denton, as senior officer, who at times was the commanding officer of John S. McCain during McCain’s 5-and-half years as a prisoner of war, was chosen to be the first off the plane and to speak for his fellow prisoners. Former President Ronald Reagan said of him, and that moment:

“We don’t have to turn to our history books for heroes. They are all around us. One who sits among you here tonight epitomized that heroism at the end of the longest imprisonment ever inflicted on men of our armed forces,” said President Ronald Reagan in his State of the Union address, January 26, 1982. “Who can ever forget that night [Feb. 15, 1973], when we waited for television to bring us the scene of that first plane landing at Clark Field in the Philippines – bringing our POWs home. The plane door opened and Jeremiah Denton came slowly down the ramp. He caught sight of our flag, saluted, and said, ‘God bless America,’ then thanked us for bringing him home.”

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Denton credited his faith in God and his love for his wife, Jane, and their seven children as sustaining him through almost eight years of captivity.