Remembering John McCain
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A Reflection On John McCain's Life

Although his name became increasingly well-known with his run for the presidency in 2008, John McCain's life was remarkable from the very beginning, and his heroism, valor, and devotion to causes greater than him will serve as his lasting legacy.

A Reflection On John McCain's Life

John Sidney McCain lll was born August 29, 1936, in the Panama Canal Zone to mother Roberta and father John Sidney McCain Jr., a four-star admiral who later rose to command all U.S. Naval forces in the Pacific. McCain spent much of his early life moving between various naval bases with his mother and father, eventually attending a preparatory boarding school in Alexandria, Virginia until 1954.

McCain's lifetime dedication to serving the country he loved began shortly thereafter, as he attended and graduated from the Naval Academy in 1958, then attended flight school in Pensacola, FL where he graduated from in 1960. John met his wife, Carol, while in Pensacola, and they married and welcomed their first daughter, Sidney, in 1966.

Although his family had just formed, McCain enlisted to serve in Vietnam, flying fighter planes over the South China Sea. During his time in Vietnam, McCain had several near-death experiences. Taking part in Lyndon B. Johnson's Operation Rolling Thunder, a missile accidentally hit McCain's fuel tank killing 134 other soldiers and seriously wounding him. After recovering for months, John made the decision to return to Vietnam. On October 26th, 1967, McCain was shot down by anti-aircraft missiles in Hanoi, breaking both of his arms and his knee after parachuting down, and was caught by Vietnamese when he landed. McCain was brought to what the POWs called the "Hanoi Hilton." An infamous camp for prisoners where soldiers were beaten, tortured, and interrogated ruthlessly.

Once the Vietnamese discovered the high ranking of John's admiral father, they tortured him endlessly and refused him treatment for his wounds until he answered their questions. His captors offered him early release because of his family's status, but McCain refused because his fellow POWs would not be released with him. He knew the Vietnamese wanted him to accept their offer to shame the United States and to use him as propaganda for their cause. McCain was offered several times to be released, yet he refused each time for the sake of his fellow prisoners.

In March 1973 after five years of imprisonment and two years after the signing of the Paris Peace Accord, John Sidney McCain was released from imprisonment and returned home to Florida. However, this was not the end of McCain's service to his country.

He moved to Arizona after retiring from the Navy and served two terms in the House of Representatives and then, after winning in a landslide election, 30 years in the Senate. Although tragic, McCain's experiences in Vietnam and his brave service in the United State's military shaped who he became to be; a "Maverick." McCain fought for what was just and right, regardless of party lines or what others asked of him. He defended those who had opposing ideas and respected their right to have a voice in the American democracy that he fought for. McCain even controversially spoke out against the United States CIA's own interrogation tactics.

In a 2015 Senate hearing, McCain said, "I believe the American people have a right — indeed, a responsibility — to know what was done in their name; how these practices did or did not serve our interests; and how they comported with our most important values."

Whether Democrat, Republican, or Independent, John Sidney McCain is what every politician, and every American, should aspire to. He was fearless, persevering, and principled. Truly, though, John McCain's legacy to me can be taken from his own words; "Nothing in life is more liberating than to fight for a cause larger than yourself, something that encompasses you but is not defined by your existence alone."

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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