Rep. Sam Johnson (R-TX)’s mom held her breath for nearly seven years as she prayed her son would come home safely. During the Vietnam War, Johnson was a prisoner, placed in solitary confinement and tortured for 42 months before being freed from the “Alcatraz” facility.
As the mom of three young children, I cannot fathom the agony of not knowing when – or if – my child will come home. But thousands of families are waiting years, even decades to know what happened to their parent, sibling, or child. Today, POW/MIA Recognition Day, I try to put myself in their shoes.
Rep. Johnson is a daily reminder to all of us the sacrifice and very real threat our service members and their families face defending our country. He’s known around here for saying, “freedom isn’t free. It has a cost, and that cost is paid for first by our veterans and their families.”
For Nancy Whitford Eger, who lives in Johnson’s northeast Texas district, the cost became very clear on November 2, 1969. That’s the day her father, Air Force pilot Col. Lawrence William Whitford, went missing.
“Not a day goes by that I don’t think about him, and wonder what kind of life we would have had together if he had returned,” says Nancy.
In a feature by the Dallas Morning News, she puts a very real face to this day of recognition, describing life for her family as they wait for now 47 years to know what happened to her father:
“Jo [Nancy’s Mother] never fully recovered.
“She had lost the person she loved most and that pain came through in her parenting.
“As a teenager, Nancy would endure lectures about responsibility after breaking curfew for a date or a night out with friends, but she knew why her mother was upset.
“’After my dad went missing, she realized how fragile everything was,’ Nancy said. ‘She had a real fear of losing one of her kids, too. When she tried to rein me in, it was always based in fear.’”
Our service members answer the call, whenever and whatever we ask of them. As a grateful nation, our commitment to them is unwavering. They never gave up on us. POW/MIA Recognition Day is our annual promise that we will not stop looking until everyone comes home.