Senator John McCain recently passed away at the age of 81 after a struggle with brain cancer for over a year.
He was a naval bomber pilot, prisoner of war, conservative maverick, giant of the Senate, twice-defeated presidential candidate and an abrasive American hero with a twinkle in his eye. The warrior politician, who survived plane crashes, several bouts of skin cancer and brushes with political oblivion, often seemed to be perpetually waging a race against time and his own mortality while striving to ensure that his five-and-a-half years as a Vietnam prisoner of war did not stand as the defining experience of his life. He spent his last few months out of the public eye in his adopted home state of Arizona, reflecting on the meaning of his life and accepting visits from a stream of friends and old political combatants.
John McCain’s heroism in Vietnam and his lasting impact on the US military
John McCain graduated from the Naval Academy in 1958.
He was a POW for five and a half harrowing years.
The 31-year-old officer would spend the next two years in solitary confinement. He was routinely beaten and would eventually signed a confessional of criminal wrongdoing and apology, which was permissible under the military’s code of conduct, according to NHHC. McCain would become one of the leaders of the POW resistance at the “Plantation” prison where he continued to be held.
McCain would never fully recover from the injuries he suffered in Vietnam.
After his return to the US, McCain spent five months recuperating. Some wounds never fully heal. He never regained the ability to raise his arms above his head. McCain became a US Navy liasion to Congress and decided to embark on a political career rather than stay in and try to make admiral. He would retire in 1981, according to NHHC, after a distinguished career, in which he received the Silver Star, Legion of Merit with Combat ‘V’ and gold star, the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Purple Heart among other awards.
McCain returned to Vietnam in 2000 and visited the former prison, which was turned into a museum.
McCain was a leading voice on veteran’s issues.
John McCain and his wife Cindy show their respects during a ceremony in April 2000 on an airfield in Vietnam, honoring the repatriation of recently recovered remains of American soldiers who had gone missing during the Vietnam war. The McCains visited Vietnam to mark the 25th anniversary of the end of the war. Throughout his tenure in the US Senate, McCain often drew attention to veterans affairs and has remained an active advocate for prisoners of war and missing service members.
McCain was the 2008 Republican president nominee, who lost to Barack Obama.
John McCain greets supporters during a door to door campaign swing in South Carolina in 2008. The senator campaigned against junior Senator Barack Obama, who went on to win the historic election.
Many celebrities have reacted to the death of the politician: