This evening we commend the example and give thanks for the life of U.S. Senator John McCain, who died today at the age of 81, surrounded by his loving family and closest friends at the family’s ranch in Arizona.
Although we were prepared for his passing, having heard last week that Sen. McCain had decided to discontinue medical treatment in his battle against brain cancer, the fact that he is gone does not insulate us from a feeling of deep sorrow. Our nation has lost an honorable gentleman.
No matter what political persuasion you hold close in your heart, it is easy to recognize that Sen. McCain was a true American in every sense of the word—he loved his country, served his country, and was willing to give his life for it. He stood up for his beliefs and was vocal against anyone he believed was acting against the greater good of his country. He was a patriot and a hero.
Why do we call someone a hero? Traditionally a hero possesses courage that goes above the norm. A hero rushes into known danger to save a life. A hero does not think of themselves first; instead they put the welfare of others ahead of their own needs or wants. Military service is not the only way in which someone becomes a hero, but to be certain, John McCain had graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1958 and was a pilot for the Navy during the Vietnam War.
He was shot down while in combat and captured, beaten, tortured, and brutalized by the North Vietnamese, and imprisoned in horrid conditions known as “the Hanoi Hilton.” He was captured from October 1967 until 1973, “almost 2000 days.” Because his father was a Navy Admiral, there came an opportunity for early release for Lt. McCain, yet he refused to go home early because there were fellow soldiers who’d been imprisoned longer than he had. He used no special pull and asked for no special dispensations or preferential treatment, a true soldier.
Although he was unsuccessful in two runs for the office of U.S. President, after serving first in the U.S. House of Representatives, he held the office of Senator from Arizona through six elections, for 33 years, serving from 1987 until this evening.
One of the most heroic acts he showed, in all of his life, his essentially final act as a U.S. Senator, came early on July 28, 2017, while simultaneously battling the devastation of brain cancer. Then and there, he chose to be the deciding voice to save the Affordable Health Care Act. It’s not about whether we as individuals were either for the act to be repealed or saved. It’s simply not at all about politics.
It’s about the respectful observation of the courage of a man to have just realized that he had only a short time left on Earth. Sen. McCain realized he had the chance for one voice to be truly the deciding vote in a matter that would impact millions of individuals. He signaled his “no” vote with the Senate clerk by giving a “thumbs down” sign.
But that was not to be the last act that carried his name. On April 13, 2018, Texas congressman Mac Thornberry, of the 13th Congressional District introduced H.R. bill 5515 into the 115th Congress. This bill:
“authorizes and prioritizes funding for the Department of Defense and military activities and construction, and prescribes military personnel strengths for Fiscal Year 2019. The bill complies with the bipartisan budget agreement and authorizes $639.1 billion in base funding.” Additional elements fund additional spending needs for mandatory defense. The bill was signed into law officially just twelve days ago, on Aug. 13, and is now Pub.L. 115-232.
It is now and forever known as the “John McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019.”
Sen. John McCain will forever be remembered as a citizen, soldier, POW, leader, Congressman, Senator, Husband, Father, friend, and a brave American. We give thanks for his life and appreciate the example of courage he showed in the face of his greatest battle of all for his life, against cancer. He will always be remembered as a gentleman of honor and a true patriot. Rest in peace, Sen. McCain, and thank you for your service.
[Specific dates and details from online resources include Washington Post online and govtrack.us]