Like me, I’m sure many of you have been glued to the many programs and news reports regarding the passing of Senator John McCain of Arizona. Unfortunately the early positive response to the Senator’s service to his nation has been marred by the cheap political theatrics which our political system has become famous for, but it is my sincere hope this will pass.
It was no secret that McCain believed the greatness of America had been weakened as of late, and the relationship between the President and the Senator had been “strained.”
However, a pragmatic look back on the service of John McCain showed great service to his nation. He would enter the United States Naval Academy in 1954, and proudly serve in the Navy until 1981. He was not known for his scholastic achievements at Annapolis and was remembered by some as impulsive and not as serious as others.
McCain spent five and a half years as a prisoner of war at the infamous “Hanoi Hilton,” where he and others were tortured and beaten during their imprisonment. McCain continued to suffer from his injuries long after his return to civilian life.
McCain will always be remembered as a fighter, from his early days in high school on the wrestling team and his time at academy where he had difficulty in adapting to life there.
McCain married in 1965 and he and his first wife Carol Shepp had a daughter, just before he shipped out to Vietnam. It would be a long six years before he returned home and the marriage did not survive. McCain placed the blame on himself, his selfishness and immaturity, and not on the war.
McCain met and married his second wife in 1980, settling down with her in Arizona. Her family was well off, and with the help of the family’s connections and wealth, McCain launched his successful campaign for the United States Congress in 1982.
In 1986 when then Senator Barry Goldwater decided to retire, McCain was elected to his seat and he began building his reputation as someone to be counted on. There were, however, mistakes along the way. Most were due to his naïve understanding of how Washington worked, but he survived those missteps and learned from them.
He put those lessons to work for him as he strived to push through campaign finance reform with Democratic Senator Russ Feingold. He would be called a maverick for his desires to bring changes to what he saw were the dangers of big money flowing into campaigns and the corruption of the election process. The Republican leadership opposed this, but McCain, with help from both sides of the aisle, pushed through the 2002 Campaign Reform Act.
McCain lost a 1999 run for the Republican presidential nomination to George W. Bush, but ran as the nominee in 2008, losing the election to Barack Obama. He congratulated and supported the new President, as the nation faced the most severe economic downturn since the Great Depression.
When asked to describe McCain, many would say he was a man who was born to serve. Throughout his military career and his service within government, he has been praised as being a man of integrity and honor.
Although physically broken due to his time as a prisoner of war, McCain never failed to muster the energy and resolve to fight for what he believed in. He would believe that people should serve a cause greater than themselves and never look back, being someone who was always eager for the next challenge.
Many believe he would shun the volumes of tributes that have poured in since his passing. Instead he would encourage people to focus their energies on continuing to make the country he sacrificed so much for a better place.
McCain also believed in a strong family bond, leaving behind seven children that he would be fiercely protective of. He traveled home every weekend to be with his family, and he passed away with them by his side on the ranch he loved.
McCain will be buried on a hill overlooking the Severn River on the grounds of the Naval Academy. He will be buried by the man McCain called his best friend from the Naval Academy, Admiral Charles “Chuck” Larson. They will rest where they both began their careers, overlooking the scenic venue that is reserved for the select few who have earned that honor.
In typical McCain fashion, he penned his final note to the American people prior to his death. An excerpt from it read, “We have always had so much more in common with each other than in disagreement. If only we remember that and give each other the benefit of the presumptions that we all love our country, we will get through these challenging times. We will come through them stronger than before, we always do.”
John McCain was 81 years old.
Steve Stefanides, well-known by his nickname “Stef,” is an experienced award-winning reporter of local civic and public interest news. Stef’s More Straight Talk column (and its predecessor, Straight Talk), on a variety of subjects, is a favorite of readers who trust him to bring them the facts. A Marco Island resident, Stef contributes to the community in many ways, having served on a number of city committees, charitable groups, boards and local organizations. Contact him by email at Stef@coastalbreezenews.com