Who should we hold up as good examples for our children?

Every decent nation needs leaders who demonstrate a high standard of honesty, morality, patriotism, courage and dedication to the common good. We hold these people up as good examples for our children. Kids are often told to be truthful like George Washington, dedicated to equality like Rev. Martin Luther King, and courageous like the late Senator John McCain.

Although I think we overuse the hero title, John McCain was a genuine hero in my book. He volunteered for one of the most dangerous assignments in the Vietnam War–flying through intense anti-aircraft fire on combat missions over North Vietnam. He was shot down on October of 1967 and brutalized for 5 ½ years until his release in 1973.

About a year into his imprisonment, McCain was offered an early release but refused it. He knew it would provide a propaganda victory for his captors and violate the code requiring the first-captured POWs to be the first released. He knew he would suffer intensified torture for his refusal and he certainly did. His sense of honor and duty to country would not allow him to take the easy way out.

On March 19, Senator Mitt Romney held McCain up as an exemplary person: “heroic, courageous, patriotic, honorable, self-effacing, self-sacrificing, empathetic, and driven by duty to family, country, and God.” He was all of that. It is not clear whether Romney chose to emphasize those traits in order to distinguish McCain from the President, who had just defamed the deceased Senator.

As a fellow Vietnam Veteran, I revered the Senator for those qualities, even though I disagreed with his stance on a number of political and foreign policy issues. My respect for a brother in arms overrode policy disagreements. I have been sickened, however, by our President’s abusive treatment of McCain in the last several years, even well after his death–saying he preferred people who didn’t get captured, whining because he hadn’t been thanked for McCain’s funeral arrangements, calling McCain’s vote on the Affordable Care Act “disgraceful,” among other things.

It is interesting that Trump would consider himself to be the right person to demean McCain’s war record. As I recall, Trump was able to get a podiatrist, whose office was located in one of his daddy’s properties, to say that Trump had bone spurs in one foot or the other and should be exempt from the draft.

As a person who volunteered for combat service in Vietnam, it really burns me that a person of privilege, who was able to dodge the draft with spurious disability claims, would be disparaging John McCain, who voluntarily stepped forward for this country and then served it so honorably. Senator Johnny Isakson, a Republican from Georgia, was one of the few from his party to call out the President for “unthinkable” conduct toward, and “deplorable” comments about, McCain. I would like to have seen our Idaho Senators call out the President for defaming a true American patriot.

I hope and pray that my grandchildren will adopt the exemplary character traits that Mitt Romney correctly recognized in Senator John McCain, and that they will avoid the serious character failings of the person who continues to denigrate him.

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