Definition of a hero

The death last weekend of Sen. John S. McCain brought an end to the saga of a true American hero.

Duty. Honor. Country. Those three words represented the ideals McCain himself said he wished to live and be remembered by.

McCain was born into a military family. His grandfather and father both rose to the rank of admiral in the United States Navy. Members of his family fought in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

It was no surprise then that Lt. Cmdr. John McCain was doing his duty on a bombing run over North Vietnam on Oct. 26, 1967, when he was shot down and captured. He spent five-and-a-half years at the infamous “Hanoi Hilton” prison camp, refusing an early release offered by the North Vietnamese because his father was an admiral. McCain told his torturers that he believed in the unwritten rule POWs live by — “first in, first out.”

McCain returned home after the war, permanently scarred by two broken shoulders and a broken leg. He had served his country honorably.

Within a couple of years of his return, he began a political life that first took him to the U.S. House of Representatives, then to the United States Senate. His time in the Senate was marked by an ability to reach across the aisle and find bipartisan solutions to the country’s problems.

McCain twice ran for president — first in 2000 when he lost to George W. Bush in the GOP primaries, and then in 2008 when he lost the general election to Barack Obama.

McCain remained an active driving force in the Senate for the last 30 years of his life. Last year he gave an impassioned speech to his colleagues to embrace bipartisanship in address the country’s problems. He gave that speech right before casting the deciding vote against his party’s efforts to “repeal and replace” Obamacare.

So this is what a hero looks like. He strives always to do his duty, to serve with honor, and to protect his country.

By that measure, John McCain was an American hero. Rest in peace.

* Editorials reflect the opinion of the publisher.

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