By Alvin Townley
“I used to be a Senator,” Jeremiah Denton explained when I first met him. “I’ll always be an admiral. I’ll always be an aviator.”
Like so many other naval aviators, the brotherhood of combat and long deployments aboard aircraft carriers forged a uniquely strong character in Jeremiah Denton, the former prisoner of war, former U.S. Senator from Alabama, and Navy admiral who passed away today at age 89.
His sense of competitiveness and the character forged at the U.S. Naval Academy got him through flight training and through nearly eight years as a POW in North Vietnam. The fire that always drove him never dimmed, until this past month, and after my time with him, I’m left reminded of what one man with character and a driving mission (“to return with honor”) can accomplish.
As the POWs would tap to each other through cell walls in Hanoi, “GBU”—God Bless You—Jeremiah Denton.
Courtesy of the Department of Defense, via Wikimedia Commons.
ALVIN TOWNLEY is the acclaimed author of Legacy of Honor: The Values and Influence of America’s Eagle Scouts, Spirit of Adventure: Eagle Scouts and the Making of America’s Future, and Fly Navy: Discovering the Extraordinary People and Enduring Spirit of Naval Aviation. His most recent book is Defiant: The POWs Who Endured Vietnam’s Most Infamous Prison, the Women Who Fought for Them, and the One Who Never Returned.