Yesterday we posted a list of men and women athletes who perished during wartime. Some were in the service of their respective countries, some were innocent civilians, some were victims of ethnic cleansing. This morning I received this piece by Jon Epperson, one of our regular readers commemorating men from the US Air Force Academy who were interned in North Viet Nam during our long conflict with that Southeast Asian nation. Jon reminds us of the things that happen when people are imprisoned by their enemies. Rarely do good things happen once a person becomes a prisoner of war. The eye for an eye mentality of the human condition takes over, and the one who may have inflicted the suffering now becomes the victim. It's something the powers that be forget to remind us of when they ask their citizens to go somewhere to fight for what is deemed right. As you read through the article, you will see the track and field connection.
Today I also remember a friend, Dr. Giovanni Balletto, who was interned as a civilian for 6 years by the British in WWII in Kenya. He was a skilled mountain climber, and while in prison at the base of Mt. Kenya, he and two other alpinists scrounged food and made climbing gear, broke out of the prison and climbed Mt. Kenya and raised an Italian flag on one of its peaks. Then having nowhere to go from there they broke back into their camp and turned themselves in. It made one of their six years more memorable than the others, I'm sure. That story can be read in the book No Picnic on Mt. Kenya by Benuzzi.
|Phil Neisler and George Brose|
Pneumonia Downs, Norman, OK running repeat 220's
Jon's piece also reminds me of one of my teammates at the U. of Oklahoma, David Phillip Neisler, from Ft. Smith, Arkansas who died on his first SE Asia mission with the Navy as an aircraft carrier pilot. According to records, the catapault bridle on his plane separated prematurely as he was taking off and the Phantom F4D went into the ocean off Viet Nam. Phil was trapped in the cockpit. The other crew member managed to eject and was rescued. I remember seeing Phil on ROTC Tuesdays wearing his class A's on his way to drill. A really handsome guy, and in my 20 years old naivete not realizing that uniform had already sealed his fate.
David Phillip Neisler
So here is Jon Epperson's salute to those men who served, survived, and to those who died.
Here's what I prepared.