We Remember John McCain as Veterans
The passing of John McCain this past weekend marks the end of an era in the Senate. Senator McCain gave over five decades of his life in service to our country. In the Senate he fought to his last days, never backing down from a fight – even with his own party. In the last year and a half, John McCain fought vigilantly for what he believed was right on issues like health care reform and immigration. This often brought him in conflict with Republican leaders in the most deeply divided Congress since the McCarthy era. In some cases he was a voice for moderation and debate, other times he was a wild card contesting party policies and conservative views. While some hard-line conservatives had a less than favorable view, often calling him a RINO (Republican in name only), his closest allies understood why he battled the way he did. His job was to represent his constituents in the state of Arizona and act in their best interest.
This was the hallmark of John McCain’s career in government and in the military. He fought for the rest of us. Whether that was the people of Arizona or our nation during a time of war. That’s what made John McCain special. Not his stance on a particular issue, or his public battle with Donald Trump. It was his unwavering commitment to serving on behalf of us. And for that, he deserves to be honored as an American hero.
Senator McCain was also arguably the most recognized veteran in America
We’re an organization devoted to advocating for vets. And John McCain was arguably one of the most prominent veterans in the public eye. Most of the conversation around his military history focuses on his five and a half years as a POW. But that’s only part of the story. McCain graduated from the Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1958 and from flight school in 1960. The young Navy pilot began flying missions over North Vietnam and supporting the efforts of young infantry soldiers on the ground. During that era pilots were often moving targets, as technology did not exist to retaliate against anti-aircraft weaponry of the era. This led to McCain being blasted out of the sky over enemy territory in 1967. He sustained life-threatening injuries and was subsequently captured and tutored for years. Aviators were trained to endure captivity, going through drills and learning protocols to escape and refrain from uncovering military secrets. But training is different than reality and McCain endured the horrors of the Hanoi Hilton” internment camp.
John McCain’s time in captivity led to a need to right wrongs by serving the nation in politics. It says a great deal about McCain’s character that, years later, he became a highly vocal opponent of extreme interrogation techniques and also championed proper relations with the country whose leadership had been the proximate cause of his pain and suffering. These traits are the hallmark of a true hero.
So today we celebrate John McCain the vet, who like many us, gave so much of their lives to service of our great country. No one person or peoples can diminish that fact. Godspeed John. You inspired us all!