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Letter: He’s a hero

Cmdr. Leonard Corbit Eastman, United States Navy, retired, was born and raised in Bernardston, Mass. Leonard and I were as close as brothers during our growing up years. I am 80 years old and I have never met a person that I respect more than Leonard. He is a graduate of Northeastern University and he went on to be a United States Navy jet pilot. He flew the world’s largest single crewmember aircraft in the world, the F-8 Crusader. During the Vietnam War, he flew photo recon missions over North Vietnam off the aircraft carrier, USS Oriskany.

Four months into his one-year tour of duty, he was shot down over enemy territory. For four years, his parents, Harrison and Sarah Eastman, had no knowledge of his status except that his wingman saw his shoot open. He was incarcerated in the infamous “Hanoi Hilton” prison for six years and seven months. The first four years, he was kept in solitary confinement, as were the entire American prisoner group. They were not allowed to talk. They were on a starvation diet and slept on a cement bunk. They were often beaten and humiliated beyond imagination. Some of them died.

Approximately four years into his captivity, the Paris peace talks commenced. They went on for two and a half years. Those of us at home became disgusted and lost interest with the prolonged continuation of the talks. How ever, those talks saved the lives of most of the prisoners. The North Vietnamese prison officials relaxed the miserable treatment. They did not want to release skeletons. The prisoners were fed more and better food. They were allowed to write letters home and to associate with one another. I remember when Leonard’s mom called me with the good news. I was able to write a letter to Leonard that she included in her first correspondence. Leonard is alive and well today. He and his wife have truly enjoyed life since his release..

There is no way we could properly compensate those men. If the United States ever had a hero, all of those men more than qualify. In my opinion, it is a miracle that any of them survived.

LOU BARBER

Ruston, LA

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