Senator John Sydney McCain III
When Senator McCain was asked how he would like to be remembered he stated this:
“He served his country, and not always right, made a lot of mistakes, made a lot of errors, but served his country and I hope we can add honorably”.
Yes, Senator, we can and do add “Honorably”.
No matter your political affiliation, we can all honor Arizona Senator John McCain for his lifetime of selfless service to the United States of America. He served in the Navy as a pilot during the Vietnam War. He was a POW that endured over five years of captivity and torture. And, he was a dedicated civil servant in the United States government for 36 years until his death on August 25th, 2018 from incurable brain cancer at the age of 81. Thank you, Sir. We honor you as a true and self-less American patriot.
He was born John Sidney McCain III at Coco Solo Naval Air Station (at the Panama Canal) on August 29th, 1936 to Four-Star Admiral John S. McCain Jr. his wife, Roberta (Wright) McCain. John’s father as well as his grandfather were decorated four star admirals in the United States Navy.
John himself was a “maverick” from day one. He was a rebel that struggled to conform in high school as well as in the Naval Academy. He graduated “fifth from the last” from the Naval Academy but went on to become one of the most admired Americans in United States history. The strength of personality that made him a maverick may have actually saved his life during his time in captivity as a POW in Vietnam.
John volunteered for combat duty as a Navy pilot during the Vietnam war. He served on many missions but on his 23rd bombing mission in 1967 his plane was shot down and crashed in a lake. He sustained two broken arms and a broken leg. In what is now a famous
picture, Vietnamese men can be seen pulling him out of the water after his plane crash. And, according to John, when they pulled him out of the water they weren’t very happy to see him because he had just “bombed the place”. They roughed him up on the spot. The butt of a rifle was slammed into his shoulder, shattering it. He was also stabbed in the abdomen and the foot with a bayonet. He suffered an injury to the knee as well.
When asked about his memories of the torture as a POW, Senator McCain said, “The joy of my life was the bonds that were forged between me and my fellow POW’s. They were wonderful. We fought together. We loved each other. We would tap on the walls to each other. I look back on that experience with a great deal of pride.”
He was taken to what was known as the “Hanoi Hilton”. He was held in captivity, enduring near daily torture and solitary confinement, for five and a half years. He was 31 years old at the time of his captivity. He was offered release after about a year due to his family connections, but John refused to leave his fellow POW’s and instead allowed others who had endured captivity longer to be released first. He was nearly 37 years old when he was finally released in 1973 and able to come back home to the United States. The injuries he sustained from the ordeal left John with permanent disability. He was never again able to raise his arms above the shoulder and he walked with a visible limp.
Update: See video below of John McCain’s interview while in captivity. Caution: The following video is very raw and emotional. It’s extremely hard to watch.
Unbelievably, after his release, John continued his service in the military regaining his flight status in the Navy. Captain John McCain, went on to receive the following Navy Honors:
- Silver Star for valor in combat
- Bronze Star for meritorious service in combat
- Legion of Merit for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of service
- Purple Heart for wounds received while in military action
- Distinguished Flying Cross for extraordinary achievement while in flight
Because of the permanent injuries he sustained as a POW, John’s military service was limited after his release from captivity. He chose to retire from the military in 1981 in order to run for the United States House of Representatives. He was elected to the U.S. House in 1982, then elected to the U.S. Senate in 1986. He would go on to serve 6 consecutive Senate terms representing the State of Arizona in Washington D.C. . He ran for president in 2000 and again in 2008 where he was elected as the republican party nominee running against then Senator Barack Obama. After losing the presidential election, John resumed his duties as an Arizona Senator, a position he filled until the day he died.
John is remembered as a man who would vote his conscience. After his own diagnosis of brain cancer and the surgery to remove the blood clot above his eye, Senator McCain, who was advised by his doctors to rest, instead joined his fellow Senators on the floor of the Senate to vote on the life of the Affordable care act. After a warm welcome from his fellow Senators, John the maverick, in typical fashion, gave the decisive vote against doing away with the Affordable Health Care Act to the dismay of his own party. He had voted his conscience and made no apologies in typical John McCain fashion.
He was never afraid to speak his mind and according to most associates, at times had a temper to match. However, John was also never afraid to admit when he was wrong and he would apologize to anyone he felt he had wronged.
Other colleagues note the wonderful sense of humor Senator McCain had. His self-deprecating humor was regularly on display. And, in response to Senator McCain teasing Senator Elizabeth Warren, Senator Lyndsey Graham told her that John only teased those he liked.
“…duty, honor, country, is the loadstar for the behavior that we have to exhibit every single day.”
In 2017, after a medical exam at the Mayo clinic in Arizona, John was given emergency surgery for a blood clot near his eye. He was then told that he had glioblastoma, an extremely aggressive form of brain cancer that also took the lives of his friends, Senator Ted Kennedy and Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden, son of former Vice-President Joe Biden. Senator McCain began taking both chemotherapy and radiation along with a healthy diet and other treatments in order to combat this aggressive cancer.
When told of his grim prognosis with the brain cancer diagnosis, Senator McCain stated that they should get the best doctors and do what they can but at the same time “Celebrate with gratitude, a life well-lived.”
John continued to work in the Senate, taking treatments in the morning before going to work at the Senate each day. In later stages, he retreated to his ranch in Arizona where on August 24th, 2018, his family announced he would no longer be receiving any medical treatments. The following day, on August 25th, 2018, Senator John McCain passed away surrounded by family and friends just a few days shy of his 82nd birthday which was to be celebrated with friends on August 29th.
“I’ve been a servant [to my country] first, last, and always.”
Good bye Senator McCain. Thank you for your service. Good journey.
Quotes of the Day
“Celebrate with gratitude, a life well-lived.” – Senator John McCain
“Gratitude is the sign of noble souls.” – Aesop
Update: Honoring John McCain at the 2017 Liberty Medal Ceremony