I lost a friend.

I lost my No. 1 hero.

Adm. Jeremiah Denton is gone.

Sen. Jeremiah Denton is gone.

After a prolonged heart illness, he passed away at 89.

But he was a hero before he ever achieved that rank and that office.

In his amazing autobiography, “When Hell Was in Session,” a book that had a profound impact on my life, he tells his story of being the senior American officer to serve as a Vietnam POW. It was eight years of the worst abuse, neglect and torture imaginable. Though his captors broke his body, they never broke the man. In 1966, he appeared on a television interview from prison and blinked the word “torture” in Morse Code, confirming for the world that atrocities were taking place in the Hanoi Hilton. What’s more, he remained loyal to the American government – even when it meant unspeakable personal horrors.

While in prison, he acted as the senior officer and looked after the morale of his troops, at great risk to himself. His book takes readers behind the closed doors of the Vietnamese prison to see how Denton and his men fought back against all odds and against all kinds of evil.

After his release in 1973, Denton was promoted to rear admiral and in 1980 was elected to the United States Senate where he worked with President Reagan to fight communism in Latin America. He worked hand in hand with Reagan to end the Cold War and strike a blow against Communism and tyranny around the world.

Just six years ago, I had the pleasure of getting to know the admiral personally, and it was one of the greatest honors in my life. We made plans to republish his classic book, updated with his experiences after returning home.

Being involved in the publishing of the final version of “When Hell Was in Session,” which recounted his Vietnam experiences and the seminal events of life that followed, was one of my proudest accomplishments.

Read it, if you haven’t already. Have your children and your grandchildren read it for inspiration and understanding of the sacrifices that must be made for liberty.

It would be a fitting tribute to the man.

Today I’m thinking about the hours and hours we spent on the telephone – telling stories, comparing notes, strategizing about the future. We got to spend a week together on a cruise with his lovely wife, Mary. Hundreds of other WND faithful will never forget that trip, I’m sure.

Knowing this humble and heroic figure was such a treat for me and Elizabeth.

Words fail me.

The accolades I would like to pour out on his memory just seem insufficient.

This was a great, GREAT man. Just standing in his shadow was awe-inspiring.

There were many who knew him who believed he should have succeeded Ronald Reagan as president in 1988. How that might have changed the course of the country’s future. But the admiral was not a politician. He was a man of action. It just wasn’t meant to be.

One of my deepest regrets is not having found more time to spend with him. He was always so gracious toward me, inviting my family to his home in his beloved Williamsburg – a fitting place for his retirement years.

Having overcome such hardships in his life, he was always a champion of others.

I don’t think I know anyone who loved his country more – and he bore the scars to prove it through the end of his life.

Join me in praying for his family who loved him so much.

We can take comfort in knowing that for Jeremiah Denton, hell is no longer in session. He prevailed against the gates of hell. He will surely spend eternity in paradise.

Read WND’s obituary for Adm. Denton.

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