I put-off typing this post. I put if off because I wasn’t sure I wanted to write it — I wasn’t sure it was any of my business, just as I wasn’t sure I had anything to add to what has already been written.
In the end, however, the subject is a nexus of two of my interests. The subject is someone too important to me to ignore: John McCain.
It’s worth the time, I finally decided, to write a few hundred words…especially when the immature and petulant partisans on both sides have come out of the woodwork to add their acid, hateful comments to every story and eulogy about Senator McCain.
It is especially worth it when the current occupant of the White House is the most petulant and immature of all. He hated McCain, I get it…but, Mr Trump, maybe it’s time to grow the hell up and at least try to act like someone worthy of respect.
Enough of that. I don’t want to dip any deeper into the sleaze of our current politics, I want to honor a man I respect…a better man than I could ever be.
I do, however, have to start with politics. Politics were not just important to the Senator, they pretty much defined the last 40ish years of his life. So, from the start, let me say this: More often than not, Senator McCain gave me a headache…a big, splitting, miserable, political headache.
But…CAPTAIN McCain earned the right to give me that headache. Captain John S. McCain, as a matter of fact, earned the right to do whatever the hell he wanted.
If ever you want to question his dedication and courage, if ever you want to question the heart and soul of Captain McCain, just go back and read the words of his fellow “guests” in the Hanoi Hilton. Even the commandant of the camp — the man who tortured the prisoners, lest you forget — commented after the war on McCain’s courage and commitment.
The North Vietnamese knew what they had in John McCain — they had not a prisoner of war, they had not a pilot, they had propaganda gold. The commander of US forces in the Pacific happened to be, erm, close to John McCain. It was, after all, not every newly promoted Lieutenant Commander who received a congratulatory note from a four-star admiral signed “Love, Dad.”
That was the gold, that was what the North Vietnamese wanted to use: the son of the commander-in-chief of all US Pacific forces.
Special treatment, McCain was offered. Release after just a year in the Hanoi Hilton, he was offered. All to embarrass his father, and to discomfit and demoralize the US Navy.
When others were using every excuse in the book to dodge the draft, from “student deferments” to “bone spurs”, McCain answered his captors with one simple word: No.
After that one word, he suffered four-and-a-half more years of torture in that camp.
How many of us would do the same?
How many of us would have the courage, or the commitment?
How many of us would be willing to pay that kind of price for honor and loyalty?
The US Navy teaches its sailors and officers many things, but it all starts with a simple phrase, a mantra really: ship, shipmate, self. Those are your loyalties, in that order. You focus on saving your ship first, then you focus on saving others, and only after that do you think about saving yourself.
Captain John Sidney McCain lived that credo. Every single minute of his life after that one simple “No” was the very essence of that credo.
McCain’s father and grandfather were heroes in their own right. They were men who paid the price in blood and service for the rank and honors that were theirs. But it was Captain McCain who was the true hero of the family.
So, as often as Senator McCain gave me a headache, to Captain McCain I can only say: fair winds and following seas, sailor.