'The Pledge of Allegiance' - by Senator John McCain  

"As you may know, I spent five and one half years as a  prisoner of war during the Vietnam War. In the early years of  our imprisonment, the NVA kept us in solitary confinement or two  or three to a cell. In 1971 the NVA moved us from these  conditions of isolation into large rooms with as many as 30 to  40 men to a room.

This was, as you can imagine, a wonderful change and was a  direct result of the efforts of millions of Americans on behalf  of a few hundred POWs 10,000 miles from home.

One of the men who moved into my room was a young man named  Mike Christian.

Mike came from a small town near Selma , Alabama He didn't  wear a pair of shoes until he was 13 years old. At 17, he  enlisted in the US Navy. He later earned a commission by going  to Officer Training School Then he became a Naval Flight Officer  and was shot down and captured in 1967. Mike had a keen and deep  appreciation of the opportunities this country and our military  provide for people who want to work and want to succeed.

As part of the change in treatment, the Vietnamese allowed  some prisoners to receive
packages from home. In some of these  packages were handkerchiefs, scarves and other items of  clothing.

Mike got himself a bamboo needle. Over a period of a couple  of months, he created an American flag and sewed it on the  inside of his shirt.

Every afternoon, before we had a bowl of soup, we would  hang Mike's shirt on the wall of the cell and say the Pledge of Allegiance.

I know the Pledge of Allegiance may not seem the most  important part of our day now, but I can assure you that in that  stark cell it was indeed the most important and meaningful event.

One day the Vietnamese searched our cell, as they did  periodically, and discovered Mike's shirt with the flag sewn  inside, and removed it.

That evening they returned, opened the door of the cell,  and for the benefit of all of us, beat Mike Christian severely  for the next couple of hours. Then, they opened the door of the  cell and threw him in. We cleaned him up as well as we could.

The cell in which we lived had a concrete slab in the  middle on which we slept. Four naked light bulbs hung in each  corner of the room.

As I said, we tried to clean up Mike as well as we could.  After the excitement died down, I looked in the corner of the  room, and sitting there beneath that dim light bulb with a piece  of red cloth, another shirt and his bamboo needle, was my  friend, Mike Christian. He was sitting there with his eyes  almost shut from the beating he had received, making another  American flag. He was not making the flag because it made Mike Christian feel better. He was making that flag because he knew how important it was to us to be able to Pledge our allegiance to our flag and country.

So the next time you say the Pledge of Allegiance, you must  never forget the sacrifice and courage that thousands of  Americans have made to build our nation and promote freedom  around the world.  You must remember our duty, our honor,  and our country."

"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the  United
States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisable, with liberty and justice for all."