What was he doing with Perot?
I am embarrased to admit that until he died, I knew Admiral James Stockdale only as a minor historical footnote: He was Ross Perot's running mate in the 1992 presidential election. You'll recall that he turned the vice presidential debate that year into something of a sideshow when he asked the eternal questions, "Who am I? Why am I here?"
Well, Stockdale was a Medal of Honor winner who spent 7 1/2 years in a North Vietnamese prisoner-of-war camp:
On Sept. 9, 1965, his A-4 fighter-bomber was hit by antiaircraft fire, and he ejected over a small coastal village. A beating on the ground broke his left knee. It was broken again in prison, and he never regained its full use. In prison, he was tortured and suffered other injuries. He was placed in leg irons for two years and held in solitary confinement for four.
As recounted in the citation for his Medal of Honor, the military's highest award for valor, he mutilated himself to stay out of propaganda photographs. Later, he managed to slash his wrists, coming close enough to death to convince his captors that he would not give in. The Navy said the torture of other prisoners then abated.
In prison, Adm. Stockdale recalled these words of Epictetus: "Lameness is an impediment to the leg but not to the will."
What is one to make of such bravery, such unflinching fortitude that most of us can scarcely imagine, let alone muster? What is one to say about such a man? Just thank you, and rest in peace.