According to President Ronald Reagan, he was one of America’s greatest living heroes – a Navy fighter pilot captured when his plane was shot down over North Vietnam, a prisoner of war who refused to succumb to relentless torture and inspired his fellow prisoners to do likewise, a POW spokesman who upon release from captivity stunned the world with his gratitude to America for being allowed to serve “under difficult circumstances.” And then his election to the U.S. Senate where, finding himself in the Oval Office, he successfully advised Reagan on foreign policy strategy.
It was during these latter years of Jeremiah Denton’s life that the seeds were planted for what now has blossomed into the Admiral Denton Foundation, which pioneered a novel and resourceful way to deliver help to the children of the Philippines, Djibouti, South Africa, Uganda, China, Latin America, the Caribbean and elsewhere.
It started, during Denton’s U.S. Senate years, with the Denton Program, which allowed the U.S. military to haul humanitarian aid on a space-available basis at no cost to the donor, and now is administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development, the State Department and Defense Department.
Then he added TRANSFORM, which applied the same concept to the commercial sector, resulting in the delivery of hundreds of containers of life-changing humanitarian aid.
Now, under the name “Admiral Denton Legacy Initiatives,” his organization has agreed to work under the umbrella of IMECAmerica, which has partnered with and shared the goals of Denton’s efforts for years already.
The organization, in a statement to WND, explained the whys.
“The last 10 years … and beyond, Adm. Denton has poured his heart and soul into his book ["When Hell Was in Session"], his speeches, and his foundation,” officials said.
“It is his belief in, and knowing of God, that is his pillar. This is the central guiding force in his life not only today, but throughout his life. Especially in the small, dark jail cell as a POW … for over seven years during the Vietnam war.” Four of those years were in solitary confinement.
Foundation officials said, “It isn’t the jail cell, the torture, or pain he will talk about today; but rather the spiritual strength he derives from his faith, his love of God. It is his undying commitment to God and country that that runs deep in his soul, a passion ever present in his consciousness.”
Jeremiah Denton’s focal point is children, as his staff members explain: “By providing resources for education such as school desks, teachers desks, school supply kits, filing cabinets, backpacks and more, we have helped to transform empty buildings into fully functional schools that become centers of learning for the community.”
His newest plans include a Maternal Newborn Health Pod, a medical equipment and supply solution designed for doctors and nurses in developing world hospitals. It provides to medical professionals the resources, medical equipment and supplies for proper maternal and newborn care. It includes solar-powered ultra sound equipment, delivery bed and post-delivery support supplies for recovering mothers.
Another project is the Small Family Farm Pod, which contains all the tools a small farmer needs to start and maintain a farm, including equipment to clear cropland, dig, plant and irrigate crops.
Each project starts four new small farms to be created and combats hunger among the “more than 820 million people” who face chronic food shortages.
Explains his foundation: “His firmly rooted faith is furthermore extended around the world by applying a principal mandate given to us years ago: ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ To the children living in desperate poverty in places around the world … no water, no shoes, no electricity, for example … our message is that they are our neighbors, too. This has been the principal guiding wisdom behind any of his international humanitarian programs he has set in motion.”
It was President Reagan who, during his 1982 State of the Union address, said of Denton: “We don’t have to turn to our history books for heroes. They are all around us. One who sits among you here tonight epitomized that heroism at the end of the longest imprisonment ever inflicted on men of our armed forces. Who will ever forget that night when we waited for the television to bring us the scene of that first plane landing at Clark Field in the Philippines – bringing our POWs home? The plane door opened and Jeremiah Denton came slowly down the ramp. He caught sight of our flag, saluted, and said, ‘God Bless America,’ then thanked us for bringing him home.”
During his imprisonment, Denton achieved widespread recognition when, during an internationally televised press conference in 1966 staged by the North Vietnamese for propaganda purposes, he bravely answered the interviewer’s questions while simultaneously blinking, in Morse code, the message “T-O-R-T-U-R-E,” giving confirmation to the U.S. for the first time that U.S. POWs were being tortured in captivity.
Further, he shocked his captors when answering questions about what he thought of U.S. actions.
“I don’t know what is going on in the war now because the only sources I have access to are North Vietnam radio, magazine and newspapers, but whatever the position of my government is, I agree with it, I support it, and I will support it as long as I live.”
When he returned on Feb. 12, 1973, he landed at Clark Air Force Base, walked to a waiting microphone and said, “We are honored to have the opportunity to serve our country under difficult circumstances. We are profoundly grateful to our commander-in-chief and to our nation for this day. God bless America.”
How did he survive when so many didn’t?
“My principal battle with the North Vietnamese was a moral one, and prayer was my prime source of strength,” he said.
The Navy Cross was among the recognitions for his service, and he retired from the military at the rank of rear admiral, only to take on work in Washington on behalf of his constituents in Alabama.
The respect Reagan had for Denton was unbounded.
“Jerry and I came into office in the same year, 1981, and for the last four and a half years, he’s been a pillar of support for our efforts to keep America strong and free and true. He’s been rated the most conservative senator by the National Journal. That’s my kind of senator. His voting record has been rated 100 percent by the American Conservative Union, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Conservatives Against Liberal Legislation – I like the name of that one – The National Alliance of Senior Citizens, the Christian Voters Victory Fund, and some others. The magazine, Conservative Digest, took a poll of its readers, and Jerry Denton was their second most admired senator. Now, knowing Jerry, he’s probably wondering where he slipped up.”
See Denton’s courage and resourcefulness in sabotaging North Vietnamese propaganda by blinking “T-O-R-T-U-R-E” during an ABC News broadcast.