THE COURAGE TO DO THE RIGHT THING…
Senator John McCain’s death Saturday was not unexpected but still it was a blow. Most of us, regardless of our political leanings, had not only tremendous respect for him but a lot of affection, as well. It was hard not to.
It was never about “him” – but always about the country, our country, the one he loved. Even his political opponents, including Obama, would never criticize him. Perhaps that’s because he never, ever criticized them. Or perhaps it was because he was a man of such incredible integrity, passion and…heart.
When he abandoned his own run for the presidency, he never looked back. And he threw all his support behind Obama.
“But weren’t you upset about your own situation?” someone asked him. “Sure,” McCain joked, “I cried like a baby. You know, sleep for two hours, then cry. Sleep for two hours, then cry…”
Senator McCain believed in serving with honor. He was a Navy captain and was shot down over Hanoi. He suffered broken arms and a shattered leg. He was subjected to solitary confinement for two years and was beaten frequently by the Vietnamese. And tortured. He came home on crutches, psychologically scarred and broken in body.
But not in spirit…
“Nothing is more liberating than fighting for a cause bigger than yourself,” he said.
And “Always do the right thing.”
The renowned news man, Dan Rather, said Saturday that Senator McCain could be “used as an example for our children…”
(Senator McCain also had a great sense of humor. “It’s always darkest before the dawn,” he said. “Then it’s pitch back.”)
In 1993, Senator McCain gave the commencement address to the Annapolis class of 1994 to inspire the midshipmen. He spoke of Navy aviators hurled from the decks of pitching aircraft carriers, of Navy gunners blazing into the silhouettes of onrushing kamikazes, of trapped Marines battling overwhelming Chinese hordes in a breakout from Chosin Reservoir in North Korea.
“I have spent time in the company of heroes,” he said. “I have watched men suffer the anguish of imprisonment, defy appalling cruelty until further resistance is impossible, break for a moment, then recover inhuman strength to defy their enemies once more. All these things and more I have seen. And so will you. I will go to my grave in gratitude to my Creator for allowing me to stand witness to such courage and honor. And so will you.
“My time is slipping by. Yours is fast approaching. You will know where your duty lies. You will know.”
Senator McCain will forever be a shining example of courage.
My brother, Warren Jennings Blanke, Jr., was a Navy flier. Jay flew jets for the Navy after graduating from Annapolis with honors. He was my hero and my best friend. His plane crashed while doing a “mock bomb run” off the Forrestal. He will forever be my“shining example of courage.”
“May angels speed thee to thy rest,” Senator McCain.