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PostTribute to John McCain: Athlete and Man of Faith (David Duggan, USA, 08/27/18 1:17 pm)
Though much has been and will be said and written about John McCain, there are two features of his life and example which I believe have been under-reported. The first is his faith, and the second was his athletic ability.
McCain attended Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Virginia, a prep school for children of the Washington Establishment, the first school he attended for more than one year as his Navy parents moved constantly. There he played tennis, wrestled at 127 (he had the school record for fastest pin) and played football (a bit light, but he could probably play wide-out or cornerback). More significantly, he signed on to the school's honor code (I will not lie, cheat or steal), and to the daily chapel required of all students. Years later, while at the Hanoi Hilton, he was able to recite from memory the Episcopal liturgy, which gave his fellow POWs perhaps as much encouragement during their years of captivity as his refusal to jump the line of POWs released, offered to him alone because his father was CINCPAC commander. McCain's 2008 speech to an assembly of Episcopal High School students can be found at John McCain: Address at Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Virginia - April 1, 2008:
I mentioned McCain's athletic ability, and though he did not pursue intercollegiate athletics at the Naval Academy, he was on the boxing team (not an NCAA-sanctioned sport), as well as a member of the Century club for receiving 100 demerits per year. He was 5th from the bottom of his class of nearly 900, but qualified for flight school. People who say that hitting a curve ball is the hardest feat in athletics have never landed a plane on a carrier. You are coming in at a speed at which the aircraft is not stable, rotating on three axes, trying to hit a postage-stamp sized surface also rotating on three axes in the middle of an ocean. McCain had a few crashes and brushes with death, including the USS Forrestal disaster of July 1967, but nevertheless took off in his A-4 Skyhawk on Oct. 26, 1967, at the age of 36, as part of Operation Rolling Thunder. Who says that while there are old pilots and bold pilots, there are no old, bold pilots? Known for their ability to fly "low and slow," McCain's A-4 was hit in the wing by a Soviet surface-to-air missile, but nevertheless he ejected while his plane was upside down. Talk about kinetic sense (the ability to orient yourself when upended). And just for a frame of reference, one of the best athletes at Dartmouth College when I attended (national caliber shot-putter, defensive end who literally cracked a helmet open with a tackle) got his wings at Pensacola. Unable to adjust to civilian life, I understand he died on the streets of Philadelphia.
The arm and shoulder injuries McCain suffered in the crash prevented him from playing tennis after captivity, but he followed the sport, along with NFL football. Larry Fitzgerald, an Arizona Cardinal constituent, and McCain were good friends, and Fitzgerald was a panelist at one of McCain's global summits held at his Sedona ranch. To be buried at the Naval Academy's cemetery after a service at Washington's National Cathedral, McCain joins that great company of angels with not only the gossamer wings of those spiritual beings, but the wings of gold of a Navy aviator. John McCain RIP.
JE comments: Remember what one will about John McCain, he was gracious in defeat--a true gentleman. Did anyone in WAISworld meet him in person?