Hundreds of miniature American flags waved. A massive, enthusiastic crowd held them and cheered for the USA. It was September 2008, less than two months until the presidential election. John McCain had recently chosen Sarah Palin to be his running mate and both of them were about to arrive at a rally in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
As sisters and life-long Iowans, we felt excited to sing "God Bless the USA" for this very special occasion. We were young vocalists and couldn’t wait to sing for such a heroic POW and historical figure. When John McCain arrived, he walked right up to us and said so sweetly, "May I stand with you?" Well, of course, we answered, “Yes!" We interacted and cheered on Sarah as she spoke.
A Snapshot of Our Background
We love our country and our veterans. As young girls, we had witnessed a horrific accident and prayed with the victim to receive Christ before he bled to death. Our experience made us appreciate our veterans in a new and deeper way; we realized they had seen and experienced so much worse. As a result, we founded an outreach called Unite the USA, an effort to encourage veteran appreciation and positive patriotism.
With that said, we possessed high respect for John McCain and his service to our country in Vietnam. Through the years, we had the honor of meeting Senator McCain on several occasions. It was a powerful honor to have the opportunity to thank him for his tremendous service:
In 1967 John McCain was shot down by the North Vietnamese. For five and a half years, he was imprisoned and tortured at the "Hanoi Hilton." He and his cellmate Bud Day helped each other stay alive. Regardless of the inhumane conditions and indescribable torture, neither of the men gave up. They clung to their faith in Christ. In spite of opposition and punishment from their captors, Bud Day and John McCain led Christian services, shared Bible verses and lessons about the Lord, and sang Christian songs with their fellow POWs. This helped the men survive.
John McCain recalled in an interview later, "We wanted to actually just have a chance to do what we felt was a fundamental human right...and we got spiritual comfort from being able to worship together. We thought, look, if we're going to be together, then we're going to stand up…They'd done so many bad things that we weren't nearly as afraid of them as maybe we would have been if a lot of us hadn't gone through what we'd gone through."
Since John McCain was the son and grandson of American admirals, he was considered to be a “propaganda prize” by the North Vietnamese. As a result, he was tortured even more and he refused to degrade America. Thanks to his family connections, John McCain was offered an early release. Even though he had endured extreme tortures and his body was emaciated, he refused to go; John McCain wouldn’t leave his comrades behind.
John McCain's Legacy
It's obvious: The death of Senator John McCain made an impact felt across our country. People of all backgrounds and political persuasions have been influenced by his death. There have been several services leading up to his funeral, including a memorial service in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda to lie in state. As the ceremony proceeded, Senator McCain’s casket was respectfully rested on President Lincoln's original catafalque. It was moving to watch live footage of the McCain family, including his 106-year-old mother, witness the ceremony.
Yes, Senator McCain was known to be a “maverick” in the U.S. Senate; he enjoyed a good fight regardless of public opinion. While most people respect Senator McCain for his heroic service in Vietnam, some outspoken individuals have forgotten the effects of brain cancer and the pain of the family's loss.
Today, we encourage all to respect the memory of John McCain, the war hero. Now is the time to offer grace and understanding to the McCain family and to remember them in our prayers. May we all be kind and give the late Senator McCain respect for his sacrifice as a POW.
We choose to remember John McCain as he was on that September day: Kind, respectful, and a heroic defender of the USA we so love.
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