A True American Hero

From the desk of Jim Madigan

July 20, 2017

In this time of great political division in our country, it seems appropriate right now to stop, take a breath and focus our thoughts on someone I think we can all agree is a true American hero and icon – no matter where you stand on the political spectrum.

I’m talking about Senator John McCain. It’s just been announced that he is fighting what’s described as a very aggressive form of brain cancer.

Through his three-decades plus of service in the House of Representatives and the Senate – McCain has always been his own man who didn’t pay a lot of attention to party lines and party labels. He loved the term “maverick” often applied to him. He was a favorite of the media, always ready with a quote or a quip that cut to the core of an issue with little concern for who might be bothered by what he said.

Before his congressional service, he was a Navy pilot shot down on a mission over Viet Nam. He was badly injured when his plane came down and the inadequate medical care he received as a prisoner of war left him with permanent impairment. To this day, he cannot lift his arms above his shoulders.

When his North Vietnamese captors offered to release him, he refused, saying he’d go only if every POW captured before him was also released.  John McCain spent five and a half years in the North Vietnamese prison. He was subjected to torture and isolation. Think of that. He was suffering enormous pain and got the chance for freedom and he didn’t take it. That takes unbelievable courage and strength but that’s what he did.

John McCain is not perfect. I’m sure he’d be the first person to tell you that. He was one of the “Keating 5”, a group of senators involved in a messy  scandal involving the savings and loan industry. During his 2008 presidential campaign, as tensions were rising and all kinds of rumors were being spread about his Democratic opponent, Barack Obama, McCain was silent for a long time. Too long. But when a woman speaking at a McCain rally said she was worried about Obama, and wondered if he was a muslim – McCain told her she didn’t need to be afraid. He said Obama was a decent man, a family man.  That didn’t end the problem but McCain did the right thing.  On election night, as he conceded the presidential race to a freshman senator almost 25 years his junior, McCain was gracious and helped smooth the transition as the nation elected the first African-American leader.

Where ever you may be on the political spectrum, however much you agree or disagree with John McCain – I don’t think you would deny that he has committed his life to this country and to the American people.  His family is asking for our prayers and that seems a small and very reasonable request.