John McCain’s magnificent life

The United States is chock full of storied heroes, many of whom can seem larger than life. While yes, there are the folk stories of Paul Bunyan and John Henry who seemed to be able to do the impossible, there is also a list of Americans who were able to do what literally seemed like the impossible.

There is Orville and Wilbur Wright who were able to become the first humans to ever figure out how to fly in a heavier than air contraption. There is Abraham Lincoln, who was able to bring the country together after having to deal with a devastating civil war, which literally tore the country to pieces, and saw America’s great metropoles, such as Atlanta, burnt to the ground. And of course, there is Neil Armstrong, the first person to step on a celestial body other than our own planet earth.


What is it about the United States that causes so many great and strong people to come out of it? Why is it that so many of the greatest people on planet earth come from this one single country?

There could be many reasons for this. One is that Americans simply have more of a work ethic and drive. Coming from our pilgrim forefathers, Americans have known the value of hard work since the very beginning, and understand that in order to succeed as a country, both politically, economically, and militarily, hard work and sacrifice must be made. It is no wonder then that our farmers are the best on planet earth, and that our military is the strongest the world has ever seen.

One of these great American heroes who was instilled with the strength to be the best and never to give up was John McCain.Even after his passing in August 2018, he remains a true American treasure. A war hero who spent more time in a Vietnamese prison camp than most people spend in college, this man led a fascinating life that many are unfamiliar with. For instance, did you know that…

Born into the military

John McCain was born to John McCain Sr., who was serving in the United States Navy. McCain was actually born in the Panama Canal Zone at the Coco Solo Naval Air Station there. The Panama Canal Zone, while physically in the nation of Panama, was actually United States territory from 1903 until 1979. The Zone was a five mile strip of land on either side of the canal, making anything and everything in those zones part of the United States.


Moving around

Many people whose parents are in the military move around constantly, and John McCain was no exception. McCain, whose father as well as grandfather were both four-star admirals in the United States Navy, went to about 20 different schools by the time his family was finally stationed in the United States, being sent to Alexandria, Virginia located outside of Washington, DC. He actually became a star wrestler in high school.


Lazy student

Just like nearly every other male member of his family, John McCain went to the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. He was known as and thought of as a natural leader there, and even became a storied lightweight boxer. However, as a student, he was actually quite lazy. While he loved and got great grades in history and literature, he barely passed subjects that bored him, like math. In fact, he graduated 894 out of 899 people in his class.


Crazy pilot

John McCain loved to have fun, as was noted with his hard partying ways when he was first commissioned as an ensign in the US Navy. He was trained to fly A-1 Skyraider ground attack aircraft. However, he was not the best flyer in the US Navy. In fact, he was known as reckless, and crashed his plane twice. While he did eventually become a good pilot, he was always known as a reckless pilot.


First combat

The first time John McCain saw combat was when he was 30 years old, flying an A-4 Skyhawk on bombing runs over North Vietnam. He was stationed on the USS Forrestal aircraft carrier which was based in the Gulf of Tonkin. He says that one of the things that made his job so hard was the fact that, in his opinion, the civilian leaders back in Washington, DC did not know how to fight a war.


Saving lives

One of the worst naval disasters to happen to the United States since World War II was when John McCain’s aircraft carrier the USS Forrestal burst into flames, killing over 130 people and wounding over 160 more. The flames were the result of a defective missile which shot off and hit another airplane, causing the inferno. While McCain was hit by shrapnel from the explosions, he still had the means to try and save another pilot. However, before he could reach the pilot, another bomb exploded, throwing him across the ship.

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Captured by the Vietcong

After the frightening USS Forrestal incident, John McCain requested to stay in the fight, and went to go serve as a pilot on the USS Oriskany. He flew multiple missions from the aircraft carrier, and was even awarded a bronze star for his heroism and finesse when flying bombing missions over Vietnam. However, one day as he was flying over Hanoi, he was shot down by a missile, parachuted into a lake next to the city, and subsequently captured.



As McCain was ejecting from his aircraft, he fractured his arms and one of his legs. He then almost drowned in the lake he parachuted into. North Vietnamese ended up pulling him out of the lake, and one of them smashed his injured shoulder with a rifle stock, shattering it. He was then stabbed by a bayonet. When the authorities finally got to him, they beat him more at the infamous Hanoi Hilton prison. It was only when his captors discovered who his father was that they treated him.


Man of morals

While staying in prison, John McCain was given basic first aid and thrown into a cell with two other captured American officers who assumed McCain would only live for another week. After seeing how the other prisoners cared for him, the Vietnamese threw him in solitary confinement for two years. He was offered early release, but McCain said that he would not leave until the rest of the officers captured before him were released first.


Carol Shepp McCain – first wife

John was married twice in his life. His first wife, Carol, is a former model and director of the White House Visitors Office. John met Carol when the two were stationed at a Naval Air Basic Training Command in Pensacola back in 1964. They married in 1965 in Philadelphia. The couple had one biological child together and John adopted her two children from her previous marriage. The two divorced in 1980.


What he did for Native Americans

John was known for being very supportive of the Native American agenda. It was through his affinity for gambling that he developed very close ties with the Native American community and casinos. John was one of the authors of the 1988 Indian Gaming Regulatory Act. He continued to support the Native American path from his days in the House through his days as a senator.


5 years in jail

John McCain would stay in prison in North Vietnam for over five years, being tortured mercilessly nearly every day. At one point, while he was being tortured and suffering from dysentery, he was finally broken, and signed a propaganda confession condemning the United States. Despite this, he always refused to meet with American supporters of the Vietcong. He was finally released in 1973, having accrued 17 honors and awards.



John McCain started physical therapy after he came back to the United States, but to this day is still unable to lift his hands above his head due to the torture he sustained. He would eventually meet a schoolteacher named Cindy Lou Hensley, and he wound up falling in love with her. The only problem – McCain was already married. So McCain decided to divorce his wife of 14 years, Carol McCain

The kids banned his wedding

Not long after his divorce from first wife, Carol Shepp, John McCain married philanthropist and businesswoman, Cindy. While the senator was happy to find love again and his forever after for the second time, his children from first wife, weren’t so excited about the new relationship. It has been reported that his children didn’t even attend his second wedding, perhaps because he tied the knot just five weeks after he divorced Carol? The two had reportedly started seeing each other while McCain was still married.


Political bid

After spending several years as the Navy’s liaison to the United States Senate (and helping to pass legislation to get the US a new supercarrier), he moved to Arizona and decided to begin a career in politics. He gunned right for Arizona representative to the US House of Representatives. His wife Cindy suggested that McCain start off in the state legislature, but John would have none of that, deciding to go big.


His net worth

At the time of his death, the politician’s net worth was estimated at around $16 million. Combined with his wife, who is chair of the Hensley & Co. beverage company, he was worth about $200 million. Apart from his work as a senator and his Republican party affiliation, McCain published a book called Faith of My Fathers back in 1999, which tells the interesting story of his family’s history with military as well as his own fascinating experiences as a Prisoner of War and another memoir, The Restless Wave, in 2018. He might be filthy rich, but he did spend most of his time in public service, donating the royalties of his first book and $1.7 from sales of his second book to charity.


Scathing answer

Many politicians will move into a district or state to win an election despite not even having grown up there. During a candidate forum, a man asked McCain about this, to which McCain answered “Listen, pal. I spent 22 years in the Navy….We in the military service tend to move a lot. We have to live in all parts of the country, all parts of the world… As a matter of fact, when I think about it now, the place I lived longest in my life was Hanoi.”


Working for the natives

As one of the members on the House Committee on Interior Affairs, he was also tasked with various issues relating to Native Americans and their land and water rights. As he was a congressman from the state of Arizona, which has a huge Native American population, McCain believed that this appointment would help to solidify his position as a representative from Arizona.


Ronald Reagan

John McCain said that his greatest political influence while in the United States House of Representatives was President Ronald Reagan. McCain supported Reagan when it came to school prayer, Reaganomics, and staying tough against the Soviet Union. McCain specifically was happy to support the president in his dealings with the various South American regimes in order to keep Communism off of the continent.


1983 Beirut bombing

A month before the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah blew up an American barracks in Beirut and murdered over 300 people – including over 240 American soldiers – Congressman John McCain went against party line and said that there was no reason for the United States to stay in Lebanon, and that there was no objective there. The United States Military left the country, and Hezbollah has since been able to accrue over 100,000 long range missiles.


Running for Senate

John McCain would eventually go on to run for United States Senate from the State of Arizona. When he first went to run for Senate in 1986, there was no one to run against him. The Democratic frontrunner knew that he did not stand a chance against McCain, so a man named Richard Kimball decided to run against him. He was known for being strange, often sleeping on the floor of his office. McCain beat Kimball by a 20 point margin.


A ship named John

In 1994, John McCain had a ship named after not him, but his father and grandfather, both of whom were admirals in the US Navy. Named the USS John McCain, this destroyer is part of the US Seventh Fleet and is based out of Yokohama, Japan. The ship has been involved in providing a show of force to the North Koreans in 2013. The ship was then sent to Vietnam and was the first US warship to dock in Vietnam since the war.

A maverick senator

One of the things that sticks out about John McCain and his political career is that he did not always follow the herd and always ensured to follow what his moral compass said. Therefore, he was known for voting against the Republican party on multiple occasions when he felt that something was not good for America. For instance, he was one of the only Republican senators to vote against the United States intervention in Somalia, amongst other military engagements.


Run for presidency

John McCain came to be known on the national and international stage when he ran against then Illinois Senator Barack Obama in 2008. He chose to have the firebrand Republican Governor of Alaska Sarah Palin as his running mate in a move which shocked many. However, McCain ended up losing the tightly contested race by 92 electoral votes, and five percent of the popular vote. McCain took 22 states while Obama took 28, Washington DC, and two Nebraska votes.


The left side

There was a lump on Senator John McCain’s left side. As described by the Mayo Clinic, the story of Sen. McCain’s facial asymmetry begins in the year 2000, when Sen. McCain had invasive melanoma removed from his face. That condition has left a very noticeable mark on his left side.



In 2017, it was announced that John McCain was diagnosed with brain cancer. He was undergoing an operation to get a blood clot removed when doctors noticed that it did not look like a normal blood clot. Once a pathological test was conducted on the tissue, it was discovered that the tissue was in fact glioblastoma, which is a very aggressive, fast spreading form of brain cancer. This is not the first time McCain had cancer, as he used to have skin cancer.


Ending treatment

After a tough battle, McCain and his family decided it was time to end treatment for his illness. On August 24th, they publicly announced this and asked that everyone keep him in their thoughts. The politician had far exceeded the life expectancy for those living with this form of cancer, but due to his age and the progress of the disease, he had become too weak to fight any longer. Due to this, they chose to stop the treatment and spend his remaining days together.


Just one day later, on August 25th, 2018, it was announced that John McCain had passed away at age 81 with his wife and family by his side at his home in Cornville, Arizona. The death was met with an outpour of posts on social media praising the politician for all that he had done and showing support for his family. Regardless of political beliefs, many consider him a true American hero and his legacy will live on far after his passing.