John Sidney McCain III, United States Naval Academy Class of 1958, returned to Annapolis for his final resting place this weekend. John McCain was born in a Naval Hospital into a strong legacy family – his father and grandfather were the Navy’s first father-son set of 4-star admirals. McCain followed suit and served from 1958 to 1981, and his son Jack is currently serving in the Navy. Although he was known around campus as a rebel at the time, John McCain is recognized today as an American hero and one of the most revered statesman of our time.
The news was flooded last week with stories of his service to our country, his time in Vietnam as a Prisoner of War, and his bipartisan accomplishments. Political leaders from both sides of the aisle share their thoughts of remembrance. You can watch videos of John McCain addressing USNA Class of 1993, delivering speeches during his presidential runs, or even defending his political opponents, showing his integrity. But to gather the true essence of his life experience, the person to best cite is McCain himself. From his recently published book, The Restless Wave, John writes:
“The world is a fine place and worth the fighting for and I hate very much to leave it,” spoke my hero, Robert Jordan, in [Ernest Hemingway’s] For Whom the Bell Tolls. And I do, too. I hate to leave it. But I don’t have a complaint. Not one. It’s been quite a ride. I’ve known great passions, seen amazing wonders, fought in a war, and helped make a peace. I’ve lived very well and I’ve been deprived of all comforts. I’ve been as lonely as a person can be and I’ve enjoyed the company of heroes. I’ve suffered the deepest despair and experienced the highest exultation. I made a small place for myself in the story of America and the history of my times.
I leave behind a loving wife, who is devoted to protecting the world’s most vulnerable, and seven great kids, who grew up to be fine men and women. I wish I had spent more time in their company. But I know they will go on to make their time count, and be of useful service to their beliefs, and to their fellow human beings. Their love for me and mine for them is the last strength I have.
“What an ingrate I would be to curse the fate that concludes the blessed life I’ve led. I prefer to give thanks for those blessings, and my love to the people who blessed me with theirs. The bell tolls for me. I knew it would. So I tried, as best I could, to stay a “part of the main.” I hope those who mourn my passing, and even those who don’t, will celebrate as I celebrate a happy life lived in imperfect service to a country made of ideals, whose continued service is the hope of the world. And I wish all of you great adventures, good company, and lives as lucky as mine.
Original illustration courtesy of Lindsay Bolin of LBo Craft