The legacy of war hero, presidential contender and proud American Senator John McCain is being honored and praised by local and national leaders as a country of respectful fans mourns his passing. Known for toughness and integrity, and described as a maverick with his own brand of common sense conservatism, Sen. McCain died Saturday afternoon, Aug. 25, at age 81, following a battle with a malignant brain tumor called a glioblastoma.
“The Nation has lost our most influential and recognized legislator; Arizona has lost her fondest son,” said Greater Flagstaff Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Julie Pastrick. “John McCain leaves an illustrious legacy of love for family and country that is larger than life itself. He left indelible marks on Northern Arizona and for that, we are grateful.”
McCain was a Navy pilot who spent five-and-a-half years as a Prisoner of War in Vietnam, two in solitary confinement. His A-4E Skyhawk was shot down by a missile while he was flying his 23rd bombing mission over North Vietnam in October 1967. He ejected himself into a lake, breaking his right leg and both arms. He was 31. As a POW, McCain was tortured and beaten. Injuries sustained during that time left him maimed, unable to raise his arms over his head. He also walked with a limp.
Pastrick says he will be remembered for his loyal leadership, combined with an incredible sense of humor. “As chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, he led the drive to form the Northern Arizona Military Affairs Council, which I am so honored to try to chair. We are now represented along with the other military councils statewide and have a private sector voice that promotes awareness of our two military installations, Camp Navajo and the U.S. Naval Observatory Flagstaff Station, along with the economic impact they provide.”
“As a Navy veteran myself, I always felt a connection with Sen. McCain,” said Timberline Firearms & Training owner and retired Navy Senior Chief Rob Wilson. “I met him several times and he was frequently wearing the Navy ball cap that was his favorite. But, it was not until visiting his home in Page Springs and hearing him describe some of the memorabilia in his living room that I learned what a genuine and gracious man Sen. McCain was. He will be missed.”
Upon news of his death, Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer said the Navy and Marine Corps team
lost a friend and one of their own. “From the Naval Academy to flight school and throughout his time as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, McCain displayed unfailing honor and duty to country. If that was the end of his service, he would still be renowned as a hero, but McCain’s desire to serve didn’t stop when his uniform came off. He continued to serve as a representative and senator from Arizona. Throughout his life, McCain never ceased serving our nation or fighting for what he believed.”
The Senator is also remembered for his high energy and accessibility. He was considered a longtime friend of Flagstaff, attending numerous small business meetings and working to understand the industry sectors that drive the local economy.
“In December, 2008, Senator McCain was our guest at a business meeting over the Christmas break,” recalled Pastrick. “Afterward, the Greater Flagstaff Chamber honored Senator McCain with its Business Achiever Award for the wonderful publicity and spotlight he had shone on the entire State of Arizona during his 2008 Presidential run. He was very honored and when we presented the award to him, he kindly accepted and, with a snicker, apologized for losing!”
“John McCain was a quintessential American, standing up for what he believed was right while serving his country in a variety of capacities,” said Lowell Observatory Historian Kevin Schindler. “Being a politician, he of course will have his detractors, but I think history will treat him fairly and he’ll be remembered as a man of honor, dedication and duty, values that we all should strive for. God speed, John McCain, and thank you.”
McCain became emotional at times during interviews and speeches when he talked about his love for his country. In an HBO documentary about his life, McCain said, “The important thing is not to look back and figure out all of the things that I should have done – and there are lots of those – but to look back with gratitude. You will never talk to anyone who’s as fortunate as John McCain.” FBN
By Bonnie Stevens, FBN
Bonnie Stevens interviewed Sen. John McCain on several occasions. “He always made time for the media and didn’t back away from the tough questions. When he was present, the room was charged with a tangible sense of reverence. There was so much respect for this man far beyond Arizona’s borders. This summer, a stranger on a city bus in St. Petersburg, Fla., told me, ‘We love your Senator.’ Sen. McCain was my very first in-person, taped television news interview in 1982, working for CBS affiliate KOOL-TV. He was newly elected into the U.S. House of Representatives when I met him in a downtown Phoenix parking lot after the 6 p.m. news. At that moment, I knew I had shaken hands with greatness. I will always be grateful for his kindness and patience with this ‘green’ reporter.”
Photo caption: Sen. John McCain visited with Lowell Observatory staff while checking out the Pluto telescope. Pictured (left to right) Lowell Historian Kevin Schindler, Deputy Director for Development Lisa Actor, Communications Manager Josh Bangle, Sen. McCain, Astronomer Gerard van Belle, Director Jeff Hall, Deputy Director for Administration Anne LaBruzzo and Deputy Director for Science Michael West.