The nation was rocked again Aug. 25 when it was announced Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., 81, died from a brain tumor known as glioblastoma.
He was diagnosed in July 2017 following a procedure to remove a blood clot above his left eye at Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix, Ariz.
McCain died nine years to the day after his friend Sen. Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., died from the same cancer, which affects 10,000 Americans each year.
McCain’s office released a statement that read, “Senator John Sidney McCain III died at 4:28 p.m. on Aug. 25, 2018. With the senator when he passed were his wife, Cindy, and their family. At his death, he had served the United States of America faithfully for 60 years.”
When his diagnosis was shared with the public, I wrote an editorial noting how Republicans and Democrats put the Russia investigation and political shenanigans aside to support a respected colleague.
At the time, Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La., injured during a shooting at a Congressional baseball practice took to social media to say, “Praying for my friend ... one of the toughest people I know.”
Vice President Mike Pence said, “Cancer picked on the wrong guy ... McCain is a fighter, and he’ll win this fight, too. God bless!”
Former President Barack Obama said, “Cancer doesn’t know what it’s up against. Give it hell, John.”
Former President Bill Clinton tweeted, “As he’s shown his entire life, don’t bet against John McCain. Best wishes to him for a swift recovery.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said it best: “This disease has never had a more worthy opponent.”
McCain was a fighter. He was a third generation of Naval Academy graduates. He spent more than five years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam after his plane was shot down Oct. 26, 1967. He was placed in solitary confinement and tortured. He was released March 14, 1973. He was a captain in the Navy, retiring in 1981.
His numerous military decorations and awards include the Silver Star, two Legions of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, three Bronze Star Medals, two Purple Hearts, two Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medals and a Prisoner of War Medal.
McCain was awarded the Liberty Medal Oct. 16, 2017, at the National Constitution Center, in Philadelphia.
When accepting this medal from Vice President Joe Biden, McCain said, “It has been my greatest privilege in life to swear an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, beginning with my enlistment in the Navy and continuing through my service in the United States Senate. Each time I have raised my right hand, I do so with enormous weight of the people who elected me to serve.”
What I liked most about McCain was his passion for his country and his devotion to the people he served. He supported laws that were in the best interest of the people, not because they were supporting a particular political party.
He voted against repealing the Affordable Care Act, going against the Republican Party.
“I believe we could do better working together, Republicans and Democrats, and have not yet really tried,” McCain said. “Nor could I support it without knowing how much it will cost, how it will affect insurance premiums and how many people will be helped or hurt by it.”
McCain also had an intense dislike of Russian President Vladimir Putin and tweeted after President Donald Trump congratulated Putin on his election victory.
“An American president does not lead the Free World by congratulating dictators on winning sham elections. And by doing so with Vladimir Putin, President Trump insulted every Russian citizen who was denied the right to vote in a free and fair election,” McCain tweeted.
McCain called many of his colleagues friends, both Democrats and Republicans.
Former U.S. Congressman Charlie Dent posted the following on Facebook Aug. 26: “America owes John McCain a measureless debt of gratitude for his honorable service and sacrifice on behalf of his fellow citizens. Feisty, witty, direct, passionate, faithful, dedicated, loyal and, occasionally, irascible, John McCain represented the very best qualities and virtues of a United States Senator. Indeed, John McCain was a rare statesman.
“Warrior and patriot, John McCain always put the public good above self. He was, in fact, both selfless and unselfish.
“On a personal note, I had occasional interactions and conversations over the past 15 years with Senator McCain, who was always kind and generous to me, and I will never forget that. He was a mentor, ally and friend...
“Rest in peace, dear friend.”
Obama issued a statement Aug. 25 on the passing of McCain.
“John McCain and I were members of different generations, came from completely different backgrounds and competed at the highest level of politics. But we shared, for all of our differences, a fidelity to something higher – the ideals for which generations of Americans and immigrants alike have fought, marched and sacrificed. We saw our political battles, even, as a privilege, something noble, an opportunity to serve as stewards of those high ideals at home and to advance them around the world. We saw this country as a place where anything is possible – and citizenship as our patriotic obligation to ensure it forever remains that way.
“Few of us have been tested the way John once was or required to show the kind of courage that he did. But all of us can aspire to the courage to put the greater good above our own. At John’s best, he showed us what that means. And for that, we are all in his debt.”
McCain appeared on CBS’ 60 Minutes in his final TV interview last October.
“I was raised in the concept and belief that duty, honor, country is the lodestar for the behavior that we have to exhibit every single day.”
In a report on ABC News last October, McCain said he had “the good fortune to spend 60 years in service to this wondrous land.
“It has not been perfect service, to be sure, and there were probably times when the country might have benefited from a little less of my help,” he said. “But I’ve tried to deserve the privilege as best I can, and I’ve been repaid a thousand times over with adventures, with good company and with the satisfaction of serving something more important shared, for all of our differences, a fidelity to something higher – the ideals for which generations of Americans and immigrants alike have fought, marched and sacrificed. We saw our political battles, even, as a privilege, something noble, an opportunity to serve as stewards of those high ideals at home and to advance them around the world. We saw this country as a place where anything is possible – and citizenship as our patriotic obligation to ensure it forever remains that way.
“And I am so very grateful.”
Thank you, Senator McCain, for your service.