Senator John Sidney McCain III died last Saturday August 25th. He was a rebel in some ways, but a patriot in every way.
He was a hero of a very unpopular war that left a lasting imprint on his life and on America. His legacy for all us can be encapsulated in an old motto: Duty, Honor, Country.
That motto is alive and well in the hearts and souls of warriors that serve with distinction in what appears to be a series of unending conflicts and wars around the globe. Perhaps, because of the professional nature of our Armed Forces, the people of the country, with the exception of our veterans, have tended to separate themselves from the experiential identity with our military as well as forgotten the motto that served our unity so well.
John McCain, a son and grandson of 4-star admirals, a graduate of the Naval Academy, a carrier pilot in the Vietnam War, a Prisoner of War for five and a half years and a great public servant from Arizona has been a beacon of light that reminded us to do our duty with honor and think of our country first. He served two terms as a U.S. Representative from the 1st District in Arizona and was on his 6th term as a U.S. Senator.
Because he was so new to Arizona when he first ran for Congress, he was accused of being a carpetbagger by a local columnist. His answer to that charge was a devastating retort and an important highlight of his political life. “Listen, pal,” said McCain, “I spent 22 years in the Navy. My father was in the Navy. My grandfather was in the Navy. We in the military service tend to move a lot. We have to live in all parts of the country, all parts of the world. I wish I could have had the luxury, like you, of growing up and living and spending my entire life in a nice place like the First District of Arizona, but I was doing other things. As a matter of fact, when I think about it now, the place I lived longest in my life was Hanoi.”
Today, we live in a society where many of our leaders, political and otherwise, are incapable of telling the truth, are corrupt, think of themselves first and want the “blessings of liberty” only for themselves. John McCain was an outspoken enemy of those attitudes and the values they represent.
I had an opportunity to watch on television part of Senators McCain’s last journey from the beautiful landscape of Sedona in the north to Phoenix. It was a journey where the headlights of the caravan heading south illuminated a narrow space of highway in the middle of a very dark night.
The journey looked to be both physical and spiritual as if John McCain was lighting the way to a new beginning. It is in the darkest nights that we best see the firmaments full of stars offering the universal light that always guides humanity to a more transcendent place.
We in America tend to overuse the word hero to the point that the term has lost some of its real meaning and luster. That is, until it comes to John McCain.
He is the presence and the essence of the traditional hero whose journey and epic quality of his experience can make a major difference in the way we move forward. For that we are thankful and wish John McCain Godspeed..