With the death of John McCain, America lost a man of great courage and rare political character.
He was a hero in uniform, and a statesman in Congress.
Many Americans who served in the armed forces have had the misfortune to become prisoners of war; many endured unthinkable abuse at the hands of their captors.
John McCain was one of these.
Unlike others, he was offered release from captivity because his father (like his grandfather) was a four-star admiral. He refused preferential treatment, keeping faith with his fellow POWs.
For his courage, he suffered even greater torture at the hands of his captors for more than five years.
Can you give a better definition of heroism?
President Trump, who managed to avoid draft-era service, declared that McCain was not a hero. Trump said he preferred service members who were not captured.
Even coming from a man famous for his outrageous statements, this hit a new low; still more disgusting was the cheering from his audience. Surely there were no veterans applauding this remark.
In Congress for more than three decades, John McCain was a maverick — a man who voted his convictions, rather than blindly following the marching orders of his party as propounded by the president.
In the celebration of his life, many associates on the opposite side of the aisle recalled how John McCain was willing to listen to views at odds with his own, and to maintain a collegial relationship with his political adversaries.
If that is not the definition of political character, what is?
John McCain chose two political opponents who defeated him in his efforts to win the presidency — George W. Bush and Barack Obama — to speak at his funeral. And he asked Joe Biden, Democratic vice-president whose son died of the same brain cancer that took his own life, to deliver a eulogy.
In a final and well-deserved in-your-face rebuke, he directed that Donald Trump, the man who ridiculed heroism, not be invited to his funeral.
America has lost a man of courage and character.
The armed forces will continue to turn out men and women of courage.
Let us hope that our nation’s leadership will still give us a few statesmen with the character of John McCain.
(S. L. Frisbie is retired. He is not blind to the fact that McCain graduated near the bottom of his class at Annapolis. And he appreciates the observation of a special friend who observed that whatever his class rank, McCain’s degree was from the United States Naval Academy.)