John McCain III, former Senator of Arizona and United States Naval Officer, passed away on August 25, 2018. McCain was first known by the American public as a Navy fighter in the Vietnam war. America became gripped by his compelling story of imprisonment in North Vietnam.
McCain spoke about his time serving the United States Navy and his intense imprisonment in a first person publication in U.S. News & World Report in May of 1973. McCain was on his 23rd mission flying over Hanoi, Vietnam in a dive at about 4,500 feet when a Russian missile blew off the right wing of his Skyhawk dive bomber. McCain states, “It went into an inverted, almost straight-down spin...I hit the water and sank to the bottom... I did not feel any pain at the time, and was able to rise to the surface... Some North Vietnamese swam out and pulled me to the side of the lake and immediately started stripping me, which is their standard procedure...”
McCain says he went in and out of consciousness for the next three to four days. On the fourth day he said that two guards came in to look at his injury from the crash and his knee was the size and color of a football. “When I saw it, I (McCain) said to the guard, ‘O.K., get the officer.’ An officer came in after a few minutes. It was the man that we came to know very well as “The Bug.” He was a psychotic torturer, one of the worst fiends we had to deal with.” John McCain spent five and a half years being tortured and was finally released in 1973.
John McCain is viewed as an American hero because of his heroic efforts during the Vietnam war, but this is not the only reason he is thought of as an icon and a true example of what it means to be an American. At a town hall meeting during his second presidential campaign, a woman stated that she did not like or trust then Senator Barack Obama because he was an “Arab.” McCain interrupted the woman before she continued to disrespect the man he was running against. According to Jessica Estipa’s article in USA Today, McCain stated, “No, ma’am. No ma’am. He’s a decent, family man, citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that's what this campaign is all about. He’s not. Thank you.” The act of defending a candidate you are trying to beat in a presidential election seemed to be unheard of during this past election. This showed class and respect to not only Barack Obama, but to America as a whole.
McCain had an understanding that one of them would eventually be president and wanted to win the election fair and square - the American way. John McCain was a true American, who didn’t need awards or recognition to do the right thing. “We are Americans first, Americans last, Americans always. Let us argue our differences. But remember we are not enemies, but comrades in a war against a real enemy..,” he said, passionately during his 2004 Republican National Convention speech.
McCain loved his country and loved the people that lived in it. He was willing to suffer, fight, and even lose for the nation he called home and the people within it. Whether or not you agreed with him wasn’t as important as his passion for his country that unites us all. John McCain was a hero because of his time spent literally fighting for his country, but also the time he spent defending those within his country after his time in the military. He wanted a better America and worked to get it through his actions and examples.