A Tale of Prayer and Survival – Part 2

Posted by on Nov 14, 2013 in Military Prayer | Comments Off on A Tale of Prayer and Survival – Part 2

In violation of North Vietnamese prayer policy, on December 26, 1970, a choir of six voices sang from toilet paper hymnals, and officers officiated.  No one POW was the sole prayer leader as all had a part in the church service; but on February 7, 1971, the enemy had had enough and broke in during a closing hymn, and ordered the prayer service stopped.  The prisoners continued to sing and ended the service by praying the Lord’s Prayer together as Colonel Risner, not a chaplain, led and prayed the Benediction.  In the next few seconds, the Vietnamese grabbed Risner to drag him to solitary confinement.

Pictured above: General Risner are Commander George Coker, Navy Captain Jim Mulligan and Commander Paul Galanti.

Today a 9 foot tall statue of Risner stands at the Air Force Academy.  It is nine feet tall because as he was dragged out the remaining 46 POWs in the room began singing “The Star Spangled Banner” to show their faith and support.  After his release from captivity, Risner was asked how he felt when the men began singing.  “I felt like I was 9feet tall and could go bear hunting with a switch.”  Despite severe persecution and torture, the POWs continued to hold prayer services – even while in solitary confinement by listening to each other pray from within their cells.  Admiral Jeremiah Denton, who shared command in the Hanoi Hilton with Admiral Stockdale, Colonel Risner, and others, wrote of this time in his book, When Hell Was In Session, 

A man does a lot of praying in an enemy prison.  Prayer, even more than sheer thought, is the firmest anchor.[1]

[1] Quoting Jeremiah Denton, Jr. (1983). The Eyewitness History of the Vietnam War 1961-75.  Ballantine Books.  See also, Jeremiah A. Denton, Jr.  When Hell Was In Session:  A Personal Story of Survival as a P.O.W. in North Vietnam.  NY:  Readers Digest Press, 1976.

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