News/Op-Ed: America Loses “The Maverick”

by Sean Singleton

John S. McCain III, longtime Arizona Senator and former American prisoner of war, passed away on August 25, 2018, a little over a year after being diagnosed with glioblastoma, an aggressive form of brain cancer.  Senator McCain served his country for 60 years in both the U.S. military and Congress.

When he was just 18 years old, he entered the U.S. Naval Academy, just one year before the start of the Vietnam War. After graduating fifth from the bottom of his class, McCain became a Naval Pilot and flew the A-4 Skyhawk in the Vietnam War. The A-4 was designed to go just below the speed of sound, equipped with bombs and missiles to assist troops in the ground operations.

In an October 1967 bombing of North Vietnam’s capital of Hanoi called “Operation Rolling Thunder,” McCain’s plane was shot down, and he was seriously injured, fracturing both arms and breaking his leg. McCain was “rescued” by local North Vietnamese, beaten, and had his shoulder crushed and stabbed with a bayonet before being turned over to the North Vietnamese military and thrown into the “Hanoi Hilton,” North Vietnam’s main Prisoner of War (POW) camp.

In mid-1968 Admiral John S. McCain Jr., McCain’s father, was named commander of all U.S. Forces in the Vietnam theater. When the North Vietnamese military realized they’d captured the son of a U.S. admiral, they offered to release him for “medical reasons,” but also for propaganda.  The to-be senator refused.

This file picture taken in 1967 shows US Navy Airf

This 1967 photo shows McCain in bed at the “Hanoi Hilton,” where he was held as an American POW. Photo by AFP/Getty Images

Throughout his five and a half years as a prisoner, two of which he spent in solitary confinement, he was tortured, beaten and offered early release., McCain continued to refuse early release. McCain wanted to follow the U.S. Military Code of Conduct because he knew that if he walked out of the POW camp early, the North Vietnamese would use his release as propaganda towards the other American POWs in hopes of getting information.

On March 14, 1973, McCain was released.  His injuries, suffered during his time as a POW, affected him the rest of his life. He could barely lift his arms above his shoulders and had a noticeable limp.

After McCain’s service in the United States Navy, he decided to serve his country in a different way. In 1982, McCain ran for and won a seat in the U.S House of Representatives in his adopted state of Arizona and in 1987 ran for and won a seat in U.S. Senate representing the same state.  McCain served in the U.S. Senate for 31 years.

Many have called McCain an American Hero. They say this because even though he was being tortured, he refused early release, because he knew it was the wrong thing to do and he kept the POW’s hopes up and reassured them that they would all get out of the camp and see their families again.

McCain served 36 years in Congress.  He was known as “the Maverick” for not doing what was easy and not being blind to the party line. McCain perhaps most famously lived up to his legislative nickname when on July 28, 2017 he voted against the Republican-backed “skinny repeal” of Obamacare. Even during his Presidential run against then-candidate Obama, McCain chose not to support conspiracy theories surrounding the to-be president’s birthright as well as his religious affiliations. He did the right thing, always putting country ahead of party no matter what the backfire.

The senator is survived by his wife Cindy, their seven children, five grandchildren and, of course, by the citizens of the nation he so loved.

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