The Military Man becomes a Politician
He has the makings of past war veterans in the family. Like his father and grandfather, he valiantly defended and fought for the United States of America. For most people, risking their lives for their country is more than enough public service. John McCain III could have stopped there, but did not. Having suffered a permanent injury while serving his country, he was already warranted the military fame and stature that both his father and grandfather are privileged to have. It would seem that he had proven his worth.
Born in a Military Family
If not for his determination, he may have viewed it the same way. John McCain III, being born in a family of military hall-of-famers, had many expectations to meet. A military man through and through, he was a naval air station baby born in Coco Solo, Panama Canal Zone on 29 August 1936. He is the middle child of Admiral John Sidney McCain, Jr. and Roberta Wright McCain. He has been exposed to life on a military base since he was a child.
His family moved frequently from one place to another, due to his father’s call of duty. He attended approximately 20 schools in his lifetime. It came as no surprise when he eventually decided to sign up with the United States Naval Academy. He often disobeyed rules during his time at the academy, resulting in being ranked 894 in a class of 899. This provided tell-tale signs of the man he is known as today - a “maverick Republican.”
Marrying Carol Shepp
In spite of his low class rank, his high I.Q. was always very much apparent, and he excelled most in subjects that captured his interest, including History and Literature. While at the academy, he met Carol Shepp, a model, who married one of his midshipman classmates.
They would later meet again, and the two officially married on 3 July 1965, a year after Carol’s divorce with her first husband. Her first marriage bore her two children, Douglas and Andrew, both of whom McCain later adopted. The couple had their first child, a baby girl named Sidney, in September 1966.
John McCain III also had his share of mishaps in his early career as a military pilot, and has survived two plane crashes. Nevertheless, he eventually earned an assignment to fly A-4 Skyhawks in USS Forrestal.
Near-death experience in Forrestal
McCain was a lieutenant commander when the Forrestal fire took place on 29 July 1967. One of his co–pilots had been trapped in his burning jet; instead of running for his life, McCain attempted to save the pilot, only to be struck by fragments when a bomb suddenly exploded. He was fortunate enough to survive the tragedy in which a total of 134 sailors lost their lives.
POW in Vietnam
His next assignment was to fly an Operation Rolling Thunder aircraft carrier, which earned him his first awards: a Bronze Star and a Navy Commendation Medal for his service in North Vietnam. It was also in this assignment that his courage as a soldier was truly tested; his A-4E Skyhawk crashed into the sea after being shot down by Vietnamese soldiers on 26 October 1967, and McCain barely survived.
Wounded and defenceless, he was captured by the Vietnamese and brought to a prison camp for interrogation, commencing his life as a prisoner of war (POW). He was treated in the hospital for six weeks; it had turned out that the Vietnamese wanted him alive upon learning of his father’s position in the military.
Back in the United States, McCain was assumed dead. So difficult was his time as a P.O.W. that a suicide attempt eventually occurred. His new life finally began, however, on 14 March 1973. After five and a half years of physical torture and painful separation from his wife and children, he was released from capture. So severe were the beatings he experienced that his arms can no longer reach over his head—a permanent physical disability he endures to this day.
Quotes on Vietnam Capture
It would not be surprising if, after an indescribable POW experience, he had thought of quitting the military altogether. After years of horrible incarceration in Vietnam, he will never view life - or death, for that matter - the same way again. The experience changed him, but it did not diminish his desire to serve his country.
Quoting him of his plans following the North Vietnam traumatic experience:
"My own plans for the future are to remain in the Navy, if I am able to return to flying status. That depends upon whether the corrective surgery on my arms and my leg is successful. If I have to leave the Navy, I hope to serve the Government in some capacity, preferably in Foreign Service for the State Department.
I had a lot of time to think over there, and came to the conclusion that one of the most important things in life—along with a man's family—is to make some contribution to his country."
Such is the audacity of a man who, by all rights, should be living an entitled war veteran’s life. However, he is no ordinary soldier. John McCain III has always exceeded expectations.
His imprisonment in North Vietnam did not slow him down; if anything, it sparked something within him - the maverick who charts his own course and neglects the dictations of society. Who, in his right frame of mind, would still retain the desire to serve, despite what it cost him?
Ready for yet another assignment, he was appointed Commanding Officer of a Florida training squadron in 1976. His dedication later paid off when the squadron received its first-ever Meritorious Unit Commendation under his command.
In 1977, John McCain III became the Navy’s liaison to the U.S. Senate. This proved to be a pivotal moment in his career as he realized his aptitude in politics, and viewed the opportunity as yet another way to serve his countrymen.
Divorce and Remarriage
Unfortunately, his marriage to model Carol Shepp failed, and their divorce was finalized on 2 April 1980. By this time, John McCain III had already been dating Cindy Lou Hensley, a teacher and daughter of the founder of Hensley & Co. They married soon after John’s and Carol’s uncontested divorce.
In 1984, John McCain III and Cindy Lou became parents to Meghan McCain, who would later become a social figure herself and maintaining a well–received political blog. After two years, the couple added another John to the family, John Sidney McCain IV (who would later become known as ‘Jack’).
The following year, his second son, James (a.k.a. Jimmy) was born. Their youngest daughter, Bridget, who Mother Theresa urged John to bring with him to the United States for medical attention, came from an orphanage in Bangladesh.
Elected Leader of Republican Representatives
Having gained an insider’s perspective of the world of politics, John McCain III retired from naval service with the rank of Captain on 1 April 1981. He believed that trying his hand at politics would enable him to render service without suffering the physical consequences of his Vietnam imprisonment. In the election following his retirement, McCain was elected as a leader of the Republican representatives and assigned to oversee the House Committee on Interior Affairs.
At first glance, his political career can be deemed a wise fall-back, bereft of danger. His life as a politician, however, has not been without controversy. He would not have endured if he was not the John McCain III who was nearly torn into pieces in Forrestal and tortured mercilessly in North Vietnam. He personifies the cliché “what doesn’t kill you only make you stronger.”
The Maverick Republican Senator of arizona State
He ran for Senate [and won] in 1986 and later became a member of the Armed Services Committee, Commerce Committee, and the Indian Affairs Committee. Even in the Senate, John McCain III is the captain of his own ship. His tendency to deviate from his party’s views has earned him the moniker “maverick Republican.”
The John McCain III of the naval academy who resisted rules is now a Senator who refuses to follow what he is forced to do, and this resilience has turned him into a mainstay in politics. Apparently, he can do more than just fly a fighting plane.
John McCain III served the American people to the point of death in Hanoi—there is nothing he will not give to his country. He ran against President Barack Obama in the 2008 Presidential elections, but lost. In the 2012 elections, John McCain III ardently campaigned for Republican Mitt Romney. For the second time, however, the party lost to the Democrats with former President Barack Obama still in the lead.
He is currently serving his fourth term in the Senate. As of now, he is not planning any significant career-change, although he has dabbled in writing; his book, “Faith of my Fathers,” became a bestseller. Not bad for a pilot-turned-politician.
- 1967: Received the Navy Commendation Medal
- 1967: Received the Bronze Star Medal Award and Silver Star Medal Award from the United States Navy
- 1967-1976: Purple Heart, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, Prisoner of War Medal, National Order of Vietnam
- 1976: Trained a squadron which won the Meritorious Unit Commendation
- 1997: Awarded as one of the "25 Most Influential People in America" by Time Magazine
- 1999: Received the Profile in Courage Award
- 1999: His book “Faith of my Fathers,” co-authored with Mark Salter, became a bestseller
- 2002: The McCain-Feingold became law
- 2006: Named among America's 10 Best Senators by Time Magazine
- 2007: Headed a committee which aided in exposing the Jack Abramoff Indian Lobbying Scandal
- 2002: Doctor of Laws, Wake Forest University, USA
- 2004: Doctor of Humane Letters, University of Southern California, USA
- 2005: Doctor of Laws, Northwestern University, USA
- 2006: Doctor of Laws, The New School, USA
- 2007: Doctor of Laws, The Colgate Scene, USA
- 2009: Doctor of Laws, Liberty University, USA
- United States Navy
- World Trade Organization [North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) and General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)]
- International Republican Institute
- Committee on Interior Affairs
- Select Committee on Aging
- Republican Task Force on Indian Affairs
- World Anti-Communist League
- Senate Select Committee on POW/MIA Affairs
- Senate Armed Services Committee
- Commerce Committee
- Indian Affairs Committee
- Senate Indian Affairs Committee
- Senate Commerce Committee
- Republican Main Street Partnership
- National Aeronautics and Space Administration
- Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
- Republicans for Environmental Protection organization
- Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction
- Project Vote Smart
- Americans with Disabilities
- International Conservation Caucus
- Senate Diabetes Caucus
- Senate National Security Caucus (Co-Chair)
- Sportsmen's Caucus
- Senate Wilderness and Public Lands Caucus