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Senator John McCain, War Hero, Statesman



Senator John Sidney McCain, the third in a family of soldiers to not only bear that name but also offer their services to the Navy of the United States of America died and was given full military burial recently. He was a naval aviator who became a hero for his services to his country during the Vietnam War. He was captured by the Vietnamese when his fighter jet was shot down. John suffered humiliation as a Prisoner of War for five years in that Asian country before he was released.

He became famous as a politician and served his country and humanity in the United States House of Representatives  as well as the Senate, a distinguished career that spanned 60 years and saw him aspire twice to the highest office in the land- the Presidency. Sadly, twice he failed, bowed but not disgraced.

Born on August 29, 1936, at Coco Solo Naval Air Station in the Panama Canal Zone, to naval officer John S McCain Jr and Roberta Wright McCain, his father and grandfather were also Naval Academy graduates and both became four-star United States Navy Admirals. He attended about 20 schools, principally due to the various naval postings of his father in the United States and the Pacific and in 1951 when the family settled in North Virginia, McCain attended Episcopal High School, a private preparatory boarding school in Alexandria and graduated in 1954.

Following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather, McCain entered the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis where he was also buried, and in 1958 he was commissioned into the United States Navy. He retired from the Navy as a Captain in 1981 and moved to Arizona, where he entered politics.  In 1982, he was elected to the United States House of Representatives and served two terms. He later entered the U.S. Senate in 1987 and easily won re-election five times, the final time being 2016, until his death in August 2018 of brain cancer.

By 2013, he had become a key figure in the Senate for negotiating deals on certain issues in an otherwise partisan environment. Conscious of the nation’s debt to service members, Senator McCain worked tirelessly to enhance veterans’ health care, provide veterans with the benefits they earned. Other historic, bipartisan efforts to secure the nation’s borders so as to improve America’s immigration system. The Senator fought to uphold the government’s solemn obligation to care for and empower Native Americans. His other cherished legacies included working assiduously to protect the American taxpayer by fighting to eliminate waste, fraud, and abuse in the federal government. Senator McCain’s efforts to end the corrupting influence of special interests in campaigns by overhauling US campaign finance laws remain a cornerstone of his reform legacy. In addition to his military honours and decorations, McCain was granted a number of civilian awards and honours, as well as several honorary degrees from colleges and universities in the United States and internationally.

For instance in 1997, Time magazine named McCain as one of the “25 Most Influential People in America”. In 1999, McCain shared the Profile in Courage Award with Senator Russ Feingold for their work towards campaign finance reform. The following year, the same pair shared the Paul H. Douglas Award for Ethics in Government. In 2005, The Eisenhower Institute awarded McCain the Eisenhower Leadership Prize. The prize recognizes individuals whose lifetime accomplishments reflect Dwight D. Eisenhower’s legacy of integrity and leadership; the World Leadership Forum presented McCain with the Policymaker of the Year Award; it is given internationally to someone who has “created, inspired or strongly influenced important policy or legislation”. In 2016, Allegheny College awarded McCain, along with Vice President Joe Biden, its Prize for Civility in Public Life, among many others.

Intriguingly, Senator McCain, before he went the way of all mortals, took time to plan his own funeral, including selecting his pallbearers for the service in Washington. Among them were his old friends and comrades- in- arm, former Vice President Joe Biden, former Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold, former Secretary of Defence, William Cohen, actor Warren Beatty, and Russian dissident Vladimir Vladimirovich Kara-Murza.

He didn’t stop at that as he requested that former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama deliver eulogies at his funeral, and specifically asked that both President Donald Trump and his running mate in the 2008 presidential race, former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin must not be part of arrangements for his burial proving, again, that politicians hardly forgive, even in death. He lived and died a proud American. Adieu Senator John McCain.