McCain: American hero

Not everyone agreed with U.S. Sen. John McCain’s political decisions. But there can be no argument — none at all — about one thing: McCain was a genuine American hero.

Last Friday, his family announced the Arizona Republican had decided to discontinue treatment for the brain cancer he battled for months. By Saturday, the 81-year-old senator had succumbed.

Many Americans have clear memories of McCain’s heroism during the Vietnam War. A Navy pilot, he was shot down over North Vietnam and imprisoned under brutal conditions at the infamous “Hanoi Hilton” POW facility. He proved to be a leader among his fellow prisoners.

He could have gone home much sooner than he did. North Vietnamese officials knew McCain was both the son and grandson of Navy admirals. They offered to release him, in exchange for some propaganda.

McCain said no. He would not betray his fellow POWs or his country. So he endured years of captivity he could have avoided.

In politics, he was a genuine maverick. On the rare occasions when he pursued a political, rather than what he saw as a patriotic, goal, he quickly corrected himself. “I was a coward,” he said of one such situation.

That — a staunch dedication to doing what he felt was the right thing — summed him up. In his passing, Americans have lost someone with whom many may not have agreed always, but whose patriotism and courage could not be questioned. He was, in a word, a true hero.

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