An illustrious war hero, Senator John McCain, who survived five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, passed away last week from an ongoing medical condition that he’d been battling since 2017.
McCain was diagnosed with a particularly aggressive form of cancer that manifested itself as a malignant brain tumor, called glioblastoma, in July 2017. Since his diagnosis, he periodically received radiation and chemotherapy treatments but announced soon before his death that he would be stopping treatment. On August 25th, 2018 at 4:28 p.m. Sen. McCain died in his home in Phoenix, Arizona, surrounded by family.
“Few of us have been tested the way John once was or required to show the kind of courage that he did, but all of us can aspire to the courage to put the greater good above our own. At John’s best, he showed us what that meant,” said former United States President Barack Obama.
McCain came from a long line of US military patrons. From birth, it seemed that he was destined for a life of servitude toward his country, even being born on the American Coco Solo Naval Air Station in the Panama Canal Zone. In 1958, he joined the United States Naval Aviation. In an interview, McCain once said, “There were times in my youth when I harbored a secret resentment that my life’s course seemed so preordained.”
In September of 1966, McCain was assigned to the U.S.S. Forrestal in the South China Sea. He shipped over to Vietnam where the result of a disastrous crash broke his leg while he was releasing bombs from his aircraft over Hanoi. He wound up being dragged to the shore by twenty enraged North Vietnamese soldiers.
With several injuries already, he was unable to fight off the men and sustained a busted shoulder and an excruciating beating. For the next 31 days, McCain faded in and out of consciousness, refusing to release intel to the Vietnamese military. For the next five years, he was consistently tortured until he eventually signed a “confession,” for which he carried a lot of guilt.
McCain’s final message to the United States before his death said that he “lived and died a proud American.” He wrote that he had hopes for the US, that it could emerge from its current adversities “stronger than before,” according to CNBC.
In 2016, tensions grew between President Donald Trump and McCain in the midst of the Republican presidential primaries. After numerous inappropriate comments and the statement that the Iraq War was a “mistake,” McCain denounced President Trump as ill-equipped for the presidency. In his final memoir, McCain repudiated President Trump’s aversion for refugees.
“He seems interested in the moral character of world leaders and their regimes. The appearance of toughness or a reality show facsimile of toughness seems to matter more than any of our values. Flattery secures his friendship, criticism his enmity,” McCain wrote of President Trump.
McCain’s funeral was held on Friday, Aug. 31. Former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama both gave eulogies. President Trump did not attend, a controversial move after having only left the White House flag at half-mast for a single day.