Alexandria, VA – Faith got Captain Eugene “Red” McDaniel through 2,118 days in the Hanoi Hilton during the Vietnam War. At one moment he was at the top of the world as a Top Gun fighter pilot for the U.S. Navy. He’d been in-country for the last year and was slated to be going home after a few more missions, and then his life as he knew it was taken away in an instant when his A-6 intruder was shot down over North Vietnam.
“I learned that having courage is not the absence of fear, it is the presence of faith,” McDaniel said. “The one thing they can’t take from you – they reduce you to zero – they couldn’t take down my faith.”
McDaniel, 87, was the keynote speaker at the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce’s Salute to Veterans awards, which were presented at the Belle Haven Country Club on Wednesday, Nov. 6. After his release, McDaniel returned home to his wife and children and received the Navy Cross. He resumed active duty, eventually commanding the USS Lexington and USS Niagara Falls before retiring in 1982.
“Faith – it’s absolutely essential,” McDaniel said. “You might ask about adversity, like why does a great God allow for me to be a prisoner of war, or for someone to lose a child, or for some terrible thing to happen? He is more concerned with our character than our comfort. And when we undergo adversity, you develop a character, and from that you develop a hope and from that you develop faith and an understanding and compassion for other people. That’s what happened in my case, anyway.”