Jim Denison: John McCain’s Most Singular Trait


“Some lives are so vivid, it is difficult to imagine them ended. Some voices are so vibrant, it is hard to think of them stilled. John McCain was a man of deep conviction and a patriot of the highest order.”

This is how President George W. Bush remembered John McCain on Saturday after the senator died at the age of eighty-one. True to form, the senator asked Mr. Bush and President Obama–each of whom ran against him in presidential campaigns–to deliver eulogies at his funeral.

Today America is remembering one of our nation’s greatest heroes. This morning’s Wall Street Journal calls him a “principled leader.” CNN describes him as a “War Hero. Statesman. Maverick,” calling him “one of the leading voices in American politics.”

Others have fought for our nation and even been prisoners of war. Others have served in the United States Senate and even been nominated for president of the United States.

John McCain is being remembered today especially because of this singular trait: his sacrificial courage.

Why McCain couldn’t raise his arms

In 1973, McCain wrote about his experience as a prisoner during the Vietnam War. Reading his account over the weekend was a moving experience for me.

On October 26, 1967, McCain’s Skyhawk dive bomber was shot down over Hanoi. His right leg was broken, his left arm was fractured, and his right arm was broken in three places.

Vietnamese doctors eventually tried to put a cast on his right arm (without Novocain) but could not set the bones and put him in a chest cast. He spent two years in solitary confinement, communicating with fellow prisoners by tapping codes through the prison walls. He suffered from dysentery for a year and a half.

Since his father was commander in chief of US forces in the Pacific, camp officials offered at one point to release him. McCain refused, insisting that those who had been imprisoned before him be set free first.

He was then subjected to extreme torture. His left arm was broken again, and his ribs were cracked. He was made to stand on a stool for days. He was released in 1973 but was left with permanent injuries as a result of his mistreatment. For instance, when he gestured during political speeches, he never raised his arms above his shoulders because he couldn’t.

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SOURCE: Crosswalk