John McCain dies at 81. Remembering the Maverick

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DK ONLINE: We were sadly expecting the news, but that by no means makes it easy. A little more than a day after Arizona Senator John McCain’s family announced he would no longer undergo treatment for an aggressive form of brain cancer, news broke of McCain’s death at the age of 81.

Senator McCain was part of a rare breed of public servants on both sides of the aisle who had no problem placing country above party and partisan interests. I have no doubt it was due to his undying love of country, strengthened by his own harrowing experience as a Navy POW in the Hanoi Hilton, and enduring more than five years of torture.

“I fell in love with my country,” McCain said, while he was held captive in another.

He returned to America as a the rightful war hero he was and would enter politics, serving six terms as United States Senator from the great state of Arizona.

Sometimes politicians get trapped in (or even yearn for) the limelight and hyper-partisan toxicity of Washington while stopping at seemingly nothing to get their name on a big piece of legislation, positioning themselves as a champion of this or that. The paying homage to our military and honoring the civic dynamics of our democracy seem like official duties that might lack the sex appeal of political posturing.

That wasn’t Senator McCain. It was clear he loved placing politics aside, to honor the patriots who have fought for our country.

That’s when I had the awesome experience of meeting McCain and interviewing him in Jackson County, Michigan as he paid tribute to a local gathering of the renowned and storied.

He praised their service while talking about how grateful we were as a nation for it.

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This was way back in 2004, and was the highlight of my time as a cub reporter for the CBS TV station in Lansing, while going to school for politics and government. It couldn’t have been a more fitting time. It was an election year and I was in my element, eventually doing interviews with huge names like Al Gore, Robert F. Kennedy Jr, and yes…John McCain, who would go on to win the 2008 Republican nomination for president and play a key role in signature public policy matters as the maverick he was.

Most amazingly though, was witnessing his sense of patriotism, and dedication to country. It was special. It was unique. It was a profile in courage and public life. May our political process once again reflect the civility and decency he so dutifully personified.

RIP Senator McCain. As it’s said in the Navy, may your spirit have fair winds and following seas.

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