Navy POW to speak for McCain in Montana
By Matt Gouras - The Associated Press
Posted : Friday Jun 20, 2008 9:39:55 EDT
HELENA, Mont. — For years, retired Navy Capt. Rod Knutson has lived a quiet life in western Montana — far removed from his days as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.
Now, Knutson is stepping forward to share his story as he throws his support behind fellow POW, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., as McCain seeks to become the nation’s next president.
Knutson will address Montana Republicans on Friday at their convention in Missoula and talk about his time in POW camps with McCain. Knutson, who was invited by the McCain campaign to speak, said he will vouch for the senator’s heroism and courage.
“I am not a real active political junkie. I am just a plain old Montana citizen,” Knutson told The Associated Press in a telephone interview Thursday. “I truly believe in what John is trying to do.”
Knutson, who lives in Thompson Falls, has never been involved in the state Republican Party and considers himself a swing voter who leans Republican. Montana Republican Party officials say they were not even aware that someone who had spent time in a POW camp with McCain lived in the state.
“I am a low-key guy that doesn’t like a lot of visibility,” said Knutson, 69. “I kind of reluctantly consent to press interviews. I like my peace and quiet.”
Knutson was a Navy pilot, like McCain, who was shot down over Vietnam. Knutson’s F-4 jet went down in 1965, two years earlier than McCain, and the Billings native spent the next 7½ years in POW camps around north Vietnam.
Knutson says he saw McCain in various camps and was subjected to torture like many others. Knutson said living through the conditions gives him a unique perspective, and special insight into McCain.
“I feel I have some credibility when I talk about the sacrifices people make to protect our freedom,” Knutson said.
Knutson retired from the Navy after serving 32 years. He said he does not plan to stay active in the campaign but may agree to more speaking engagements if it will help McCain.
The McCain campaign said Thursday that it wanted Knutson to address the crowd to highlight McCain’s military service.
Although initially reluctant to speak, Knutson said he felt it was too important to decline.
“I have seen it firsthand, and John McCain has seen it firsthand,” Knutson said. “When violence hits you and they take away your freedom and they start killing people, you don’t ever want it to come to that. You want to be protected first in my opinion.”
Knutson was released from Hanoi in February 1973.
Over his Navy career, Knutson said he was given two Silver Star awards, four Legion of Merit awards and many others.
Knutson said he expects a little more attention now that he is speaking on behalf of McCain but says it will be worth it.
“My intention is to help people understand that this guy has been through something that took a lot of courage to get through, and because of that, he has a better understanding of the freedom we enjoy and what it takes to protect that,” Knutson said.
I stole this link from a comment BadBob left over at the Phibian's place. Thanks baby!