At the ending of my own radical tour around the States, a fellow Vietnam Vet passed from cancer. He was not an equal. Did not travel in my circle. Yet, was a brother in the largest fraternity the world has known. The clan of warriors.
Senator John McCain came from a proud Naval Family. He was part of the warrior family. Expected to serve. Yet entered of his free will. Attended a military institution – graduating near bottom of his class.
As I was to pass through Pensacola, Florida I stopped on the East side. A Florida rest area displaying flags flown a half-staff. A Navy, Blue Angel airframe, sat static on supporting metal stanchion. It marked the exit of rest area and entry into Naval Air Station territory.
Reminded by radio and now visual input, that an American POW had died. I ran through the expounded and personal thoughts gathered during my last days of travel:
· Sixty years of service to the United States of America;
· “An imperfect service to the country;”
· Five and one-half years a POW in North Vietnam;
· Again, “…an imperfect patriot;”
· Senator serving Arizona constituents;
· “…a voice of reason on the Senate floor;”
· Straight talk…dedicated to enduring principles;
· “A fighter…displaying courage, integrity and character;”
· “Feisty…Scrappy…Sometimes with a temper;”
· “A rogue…Gracious Politician…Maverick;”
· “Visited Vietnam War Memorial with frequency;”
· “Visited war and conflict zones to meet with soldiers;”
· And, “Believed in something greater than himself….”
All these things said of Senator John McCain. But, they could be said to describe many other friends, associates and historical figures.
The thing that made it fresh is that he is touted to a new generation – and, for those who forgot – as someone to emulate. (In thinking of Sen. McCain – Naval Officer, it was not the accolade he sought.)
Much like many I have known:
– some “gave all while believing in something greater than themselves.” I knew some whose names appear on the black granite walls of the Vietnam Memorial;
– some gave “the last measure of their being.” While performing service to their country, aboard military airplanes between 1981 and 1998;
– some “displayed the finest parts of their character….” They did – and continue to – perform in our response to acts of terror. The War on Terror continues today.
Heroism in the face of diversity is seen from our “first-responders” every day. Marked by graves for those who lost life doing what they loved, in service to community. Strength mustered by families who carry-on in the memory of lost loved-ones.
This – my friends – is a teaching moment.
Look around. See what you can do. Emulate those who’ve gone before. Do it your way. Partner with the likes of many who’ve made this country humane and with a principled approach.
Emulate the heroes in your lifetime.
For those who have “done the hard work,” I salute you. Place you in the long list of what has made America – and, the world – great.
As for the life of Senator John McCain, I am thankful his existence came in my lifetime.
For his passing, we will have another person to write into our book of history.
Who will take his chair?