‘HE WAS THE DECORATED WING COMMANDER’ but ‘SHE WAS A HERO TOO’
…..In Love and War
It was an ordinary day like any other, but it would seem there was some extraordinary ordeal, she was home upstairs putting the boys to bed, when she received the tragic news that Jim was shot down in Vietnam, at the moment it wasn’t known as whether he was alive, KIA, killed in action, much would be revealed through time, But that would be the genesis of a new period for the Stockdale family, a period that would test their endurance and faith, a period of hope and despair, a period that would require courage and radical measures.
IN LOVE AND WAR, the tale of the Stockdale family through trials and tribulations that resulted from the Vietnam war between the united states of America and Vietnam, a tale depicting how a woman would go through the eye of storm, through the depth of the deepest ocean in fighting for his beloved naval husband captured by the Vietnamese and imprisoned for almost 8 years, a tale of a woman who would anything and everything to keep her family intact, fighting to survive 3 miscarriages, a surgery operation, the passing of her in-laws while simultaneously trying to ensure that all four of his young boys have everything that they need, working so hard to ensure that she plays both the mother and fatherly role while also building her profession.
It was a period of loneliness and enormous unimagibale pain for Syb and many other wives who were also facing the same storm, for Jim and other fellow prisoners, it would also be a period of loneliness, sadness, emotional and physical agony and torture, it would be a walk through hell with captors who would do anything to get the information they wanted about the US navy and the US government as a whole.
Jim Stockdale was captured in a mission gone wrong in Vietnam, sent to prison at which he would reunite with some of the US navy that they had deemed KIA/ killed in action. Back to back letter between Jim and Syb is not only what kept the family intact, connected and hopeful, but what also gave the US hope that they could, and will be able to reunite the Vietnam prisoners with their families.
Having felt that the government was not doing all that it could possibly do to ensure the safe passage of the imprisoned, Syb Stockdale began communicating with the various women that were also at amidst this unfortunate predicament, women who also had their husbands who were serving the US now imprisoned in Vietnam, she made strides to communicate with the different women in different parts of the country while simultaneously communicating with the Generals who were in charge and responsible for ensuring that the imprisoned were kept in well taken of spaces, were receiving healthy food and released without harm.
Jim Stockdale is an epitome that leaders are brokers of hope, that leadership is not merely a position in the workplace but it is a purpose driven initiative. Jim communicated with various other prisoners through the tap communication that they knew, they shared information about everything that happened in the prison, information who was who and when they were captured, which other prisoners were in the prison. They communicated through the tap code how they would not comply with the prison officials even in the face of torture, they communicated on when to initiate hunger strikes.
Having been granted the opportunity to write letters to only one member by the prison, Jim began writing to Syb each and every opportunity he was given, and it then dawned on him that he could send encrypted messages in the letter to Syb which intended for the navy, it was through the back to back letters that the US, Syb and her family were able to comprehend the kind of conditions that Jim and the other prisoners were living under, the condition of their health, and Jim also had the opportunity to comprehend what was happening in his family, and the measures that were been taken by the government in getting the prisoners freed.
Seven and a half years later news of the release of the prisoners were received, there was emotions of both happiness and fear, happiness from Syb that she would almost 8 years be reunited with his husband, fear of how to receive and welcome him, he had been away for so long, what if he is not the same Jim that left almost 8 years ago, what if prison has damaged him. When people are separated from each other over a long period of time they begin to question their compatibility, if the same spark that had been there previously is always there. Jim on the other hand had the same set of emotions, that of happiness because he would be reunited with his family, and also that of fear because he was not the same man that had left years ago, there would be things he would not be able to do anymore because of his condition, his sons had grown so much, how would they receive him, especially the young ones that might not have a memory of him at all since he left when they were still very young.
Both Jim and Syb were honored for the respective leadership role they both had played over the past 8 years during these tough times. This is a story of love amidst war, how one family kept trying , kept going, and kept hoping, IN LOVE AND WAR.
…..A STORY OF ENDURANCE and FAITH…..
Book Review by: TOKELO HLAGALA