John McCain: an American Hero

Bob Dylan’s song “The Times They Are a’Changin'” is the perfect expression of the American experience during the tumultuous decades of the 1960s – 1970s. The Vietnam War had expanded into Cambodia, Laos and for the first time in history the homefront  witnessed the carnage every night during dinner on the 6:00 News.

The great equalizer during these times was the draft.  Every male American was subject to military proscription depending upon where their birthdate came up in the Draft Lottery.  Some student, health & hardship deferments were granted (some famously 4 & 5 times – VP Dick Cheney, President Donald J Trump).  It was clear the war could not be won the way it was being fought, Saigon finally fell to Vietcong forces April 30, 1975.

Against this backdrop, there were those who rose to the challenges, did their jobs the best they could, and thus changed the course of that war. A few became heros – not for how many kills or missions they had – but for the way they conducted themselves under pressure we cannot imagine.

John McCain was one of them.  No one can ever say “John McCain is not a WINNER because he was captured & spent 5 years in a POW camp.”

This is when he became a hero – his father was an officer in US military & the North Vietnamese were willing to release him. BUT John McCain REFUSED to leave his men. As a naval aviator, McCain flew attack aircraft from carriers. During the Vietnam War, he narrowly escaped death in the 1967 Forrestal fire. On his twenty-third bombing mission in October 1967, he was shot down over Hanoi and badly injured.

He subsequently endured five and a half years as a prisoner of war, including periods of torture. In 1968, he refused a North Vietnamese offer of early release, because it would have meant leaving before other prisoners who had been held longer. He was released in 1973 after the Paris Peace Accords.