July 18, 1984
The President. I just want to say that this is a great honor for me -- all of you by your examples have set a pattern of dedication to country and duty -- and to address you now on this your 37th annual convention.
I know that you represent POW's from every major war -- World War I, II, and Korea and Vietnam. And all four of those wars have taken place in my lifetime. There were 121,000 Americans in the war that I participated in, World War II. And you deserve the Nation's respect and gratitude for the sacrifices.
Those service men and women who were placed in circumstances, including all of you -- they called for special sacrifice and extraordinary bravery. Only those who have been POW's can realize the trauma of being captured and the indignities and hardships that you had to endure. And your families suffered with them. I know that's one of the reasons why you're out in front of all of us in continuing to show compassion for the over 2,000 Americans that are unaccounted for in Southeast Asia and their families and what they're going through. So, I just welcome this opportunity to thank all of you.
You know, in a previous life of mine, I played in a picture called ``Prisoner of War'' that had to do with Korea, and -- the Korean war -- and I thought that, well, that was the closest example that I had then in that make-believe, and in the close contact with a true prisoner who guided us in many of the things that we were doing on the screen -- a former prisoner -- and I thought that that would probably be the only experience that I had that was at all in keeping with what you have gone through. Then, of course, I began thinking about my present job. [Laughter]
No, seriously, I think we all do know and just -- I welcome this opportunity to wish you well in this 37th annual convention and at the same time then to thank you on behalf of all Americans for the sacrifice that you made.
Mr. Ferruci. The over 1,000 former POW's and their wives here in the room appreciate the time that you've taken to speak with us this morning.
The President. Well, God bless you all.
Mr. Darrington. Mr. President, as you can see and -- hear, rather, this is a very appreciative group for you and for our love of our country. And we want you to know again that we appreciate you calling, speaking to the American Ex-prisoners of War in our 37th annual convention.
The President. My heartfelt thanks to you. Good luck.
Mr. Ferruci. Thank you.
Mr. Darrington. Thank you.
Note: The President spoke at 1:26 p.m. from the Oval Office at the White House. Tony Ferruci was the convention's program director and Earl Darrington is national commander of the American Ex-Prisoners of War.