As a combat veteran and fellow purple heart recipient it was quite difficult to not root for the late Senator John Sidney McCain III. McCain had a military record to be admired and served in public office for nearly four decades. He was an independent man, a maverick, and did what he felt was right and just. He selflessly served this country and its citizens up until his last days.
Much of what made him an autonomous person followed when he transitioned to public office.
McCain was never afraid to go against the grain and never was this more apparent than when he shocked members of the Senate, across both partisan lines, in his thumbs down vote against the repeal of the Affordable Care Act.
It was expected of McCain, by his fellow Republican senators, to follow along and repeal what is colloquially known as Obamacare. After giving the shocking thumbs down, McCain seemed unapologetic and confident in his dissenting decision. Decisions like those are what separated McCain from others, he was willing to think differently even in the face of heavy opposition.
Actions taken by McCain and their effects on the country were obviously looked at differently depending on who you asked. The senator never questioned people’s thoughts on his decisions, but what he did ask for was that he be remembered for his love of the country.
His posthumous farewell letter encompassed his love for the United States and all Americans.
“My fellow Americans, whom I have gratefully served for sixty years, and especially my fellow Arizonans,” stated McCain. “Thank you for the privilege of serving you and for the rewarding life that service in uniform and in public office has allowed me to lead. I have tried to serve our country honorably. I have made mistakes, but I hope my love for America will be weighed favorably against them.”
My military service pales in comparison to John McCain’s prolific military career. He was shot down over North Vietnam, broke both arms and a leg from the violent crash. He was captured and tortured for five and a half years by the North Vietnamese at the infamous ‘Hanoi Hilton’, yet we both have the same medal for wounds received in action against enemies of the United States. To men like McCain, military service was and never will be about medals or glory, it is about selfless service to country and to those fellow service members to your left and right. This may sound cliché, but it is a widespread belief among many service members, especially those who have found themselves on the frontlines, in harrowing combat.
McCain exemplified these tenets during his time as a prisoner of war, as he refused to be released early from captivity due to his military stature. These kinds of actions demonstrated his altruistic nature and devotion to others. He acted on his own and independent of outside pressure.
In an ABC News report, McCain spoke of the moment he went against his captors vocal demands, bravely ignoring their calls for cooperation.
“In the background the interrogator is saying, ‘tell them you want the war to stop,’ and that’s why you hear me say, ‘that’s all I have to say.’”
Regardless of whether you agreed with the late senator or not throughout his time as an American public servant, it can be said with confidence that he was a man who regularly chose his own path and acted based on independent thought.