Editor: Sen. John McCain has been wrestling with poor health in recent months. U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, also from Arizona, spoke with McCain a few weeks ago and reported that “McCain sounded good as he continues recuperating at home from a recent hospitalization related to his cancer treatment.”
This was welcome news to me, because in the 1950s, we were both students at the Episcopal High School in Alexandria. Even back then he was a bit of a maverick. At the time, there was a mandatory dress code requiring a coat and tie during class time. Unlike the rest of us who wore British regimental striped silk ties, John, however, being his own person, did something totally different. He sported a narrow, blunt-ended, black-knit tie that sagged longer and thinner as time went on.
After leaving school, our paths did not cross. However, later on we were both in Vietnam at about the same time—he as a United States naval pilot and I as an architectural conservator of ancient monuments.
A biography of McCain reports that “on October 26, 1967, during a bombing raid over North Vietnam, a missile struck his plane and forced him to eject, knocking him unconscious and breaking both his arms and his leg. After a parachute landing in Hanoi, John was taken as a prisoner of war, denied medical treatment and subjected to years of torture by the North Vietnamese. He was finally released after five and a half years of imprisonment, on March 14, 1973.” During much of that dreadful time he was left to hang on a wall from his arms. He also refused an early release offered to him because of his family’s military prominence.
From 1971 to 1975, I carried out three separate missions for UNESCO to the Imperial City of Hué in South Vietnam to evaluate and document the war damage to its historic buildings. When I was there in 1971 and 1973, I thought of John McCain every day and prayed for his safe release.
In March 1975, when my UNESCO team and I were in Hué for the last time, we were stranded there by the South Vietnam military who, having lied to us, secretly abandoned the city in the dark of night and left us to find our own way out. Happily, we were not captured by the advancing Viet Cong or the North Vietnamese army. We managed to escape on an Air America helicopter sent up from Da Nang to rescue us.
After retiring from the Navy, McCain went into politics and was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives for Arizona in 1982. He was elected to the Senate in 1986, where he has served the state of Arizona for more than 30 years.
Donald Trump said of John McCain at the Family Leadership Summit, on July 18, 2017, in Ames, IA, “He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”
To say that of John McCain, as Donald Trump has done, is to be regretted. Even to suggest that being captured is somehow a negative is disgraceful.
In my personal dictionary, “courage” is spelled” John McCain.
The Rev. W. Brown Morton III, Leesburg