Five days ago we received the news we knew was coming but didn’t want to hear: Senator John S. McCain III died of brain cancer. By any account Senator McCain stood for the best of what our nation stood for.
He was born in the Panama Canal Zone in 1936 because his father, John S. McCain Jr, served there in his career in the Navy.
Because both is father and grandfather graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland it was assumed he would attend there also. He graduated in 1958, placing nearly at the bottom of his class.
Nobody would expect Lt. McCain to have much of a military career but he did. In 1967 he flew a mission during the War in Vietnam and was shot down and taken prisoner. His captors soon learned he was the son of a 4 Star Naval General and offered to send him home as a tactic to appear humane. Lt. McCain, in a phenomenal act of courage, refused their offer unless all the POW’s were released. In the 5 1/2 years between that offer and the end of the war he was tortured beyond what most of us can imagine. Because of this torture he spent the rest of his life not being able to raise his arms above his shoulders. He couldn’t even comb his hair.
He came home in 1973. After all he had been through we all could have understood if he had spent the rest of his life seeing this torture as an excuse for avoiding responsibility and blaming others.
But John McCain chose a different path. He didn’t blame his government for sending him to Vietnam, he didn’t blame his captors for their torture, he didn’t blame his country for the horrible treatment Vietnam veterans endured when they returned.
Instead he ran for Congress. In 1982 the good people of the 1st District of Arizona sent him to the House of Representatives and in 1986 the state of Arizona chose him to replace Senator Barry Goldwater as a Senator. He ran for President in 2000 and 2008, losing to George W. Bush and Barach Obama.
Senator McCain was a Republican and held different views on many issues. But those of us who found a different path to American greatness nevertheless respected him even if we didn’t agree with him. Patriotism does not depend on agreement as it much as it depends on love for our nation.
Fair winds and following seas.