John McCain died this last week. Some are hailing him as a statesman, a war hero and a great American. They are trotting out the past and striking up the band. I'm not.
Back in the 1950's there was a little boy. He had a dream. He wanted to grow up and be a preacher. In the 60's he graduated from high-school. Vietnam was going on. Still he had his dream and he was accepted into preaching school.
In the beginning of the war you couldn't get drafted if you were in college. They called it a student deferral. Dad never got called so he never had to use this excuse. He loved college. He went on mission trips and got to speak at lots of little churches that needed help. He loved his classes and by all accounts did well. Except in Greek. He flunked Greek. Which meant he flunked out of his program. If he couldn't pass Greek, he couldn't be a preacher.
Dad could have stayed in college. He could have changed his major. He wasn't going to do that. The country, his country, was at war. If he could have followed his dream and been a preacher he would have. He wasn't going to be drafted or serve with those who had. At that time only the Marines were not accepting draftees. He went and saw the Marine recruiter. He was asked to list his choices for a military occupation specialty. Chaplin, Chaplin's Assistant, embassy duty, or raiders were some of his choices. The Marines looked over those MOS's and promptly shaved his head and sent him to the Nam.
Dad was part of the security detail that guarded the Da Nang Air Base. By all accounts he did his duty and was honorably discharged after being medevacked out days before the Tet Offensive.
I've left out a number of details, but that's the basic story of Viet Nam, My Father's War. He has fired his weapon in anger. He doesn't know if he ever killed anyone. He never won a medal or did anything particularly heroic. He did his job and went home.
As far as I can tell, my father's story is a lot like the stories of other men who wore their countries uniform and fought during its wars. They went and did the job they were asked to do. They may not have won any medals or special recognition. They did their part as best as they could.
Then there is John McCain, the "war hero". I know McCain's story too. I know he crashed his jet on a carrier. McCain's daddy was an admiral so he got to stay. Lots of us get second chances we don't deserve so he gets a pass on this one.
McCain got shot down. We don't know the details as nearly all of McCain's military records are still classified. He got captured. He became a POW. Then based on the accounts we do have, he sold out and became a collaborator. I'm going to give him a pass on all of this too, because I don't know how long he held out or how bad it got before he gave in. From what we do know it was very, very bad.
My father didn't tell me this story, but other family members who were there did. After dad was home, my grandfathers, both WWII vets and some other men took my dad down to the VFW to buy him a beer and get him a membership in the VFW. As far as I know, beer has never touched my fathers lips. That might be why my father never told me this story.
Anyway they go to the VFW. The fella's have their membership cards and they order their drinks. My grandfather introduces my dad and says he wants to get him his membership. The VFW man asks about dad's service and informs him that he can't join because Viet Nam was a police action and not a war.
My grandfather never liked my dad all that much. He married his daughter and was family, but the two of them were opposites of each other in just about every way. Grandpa tore up his VFW card. He wouldn't belong to a group that wouldn't accept a man that fought for his country.
John McCain got back from Viet Nam, stayed in the Navy and did well as a navel officer. He decided to get himself elected to congress for a couple of terms and then the Senate. McCain had his scandals, his failures, his career as a RINO. He had his chance to stick up for his country and his fellow service men. He didn't. He sold out our POW's. As I remember hearing it, one of his buddies, or a family member had a great trade deal with Viet Nam, if only the US would normalize relations. Poof, despite the fact that we knew in 1993 that the Russians had documentation of over 1,200 American POW's in South East Asia, they all suddenly "disappeared".
Viet Nam was my father's war. Those POW's are my countrymen. If those men are still alive they would be in their 60's to 70's. My guess is they probably aren't around today. From 1993 to 1995 those guys, our guys, had one last slim chance of coming home. John McCain was part of the gang that killed that chance.
McCain's military service exceeds that of many men. He had a rough time of it in Viet Nam. I respect that fact. Why is his service record still classified? He spent 5 years as a POW. None of the planes he flew then are still relevant today. Nothing he knew as a navel officer has any bearing on military actions now. What is so important that it is 50 years secret?
McCain's conduct after the war is reprehensible. His ability to flip flop unequaled. Did the democrats have the goods to black mail him throughout his congressional career? Little else, unless his membership in the Keating Five was more than it appeared, explains his voting record.
McCain's military service exceeds that of many men. So does that of General Benedict Arnold.