The life of Arizona Sen. John S. McCain, who died Aug. 25, should serve as an example for service members today, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis said here today.
Mattis spoke with reporters just before welcoming Indonesian Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu to the Pentagon for meetings.
The secretary focused on Navy Lt. Cmdr. John McCain, a naval aviator shot down over North Vietnam in 1967 and held in captivity for more than five years.
Mattis noted that McCain refused to be repatriated out of order. The North Vietnamese sought to make propaganda hay by releasing McCain – the son of the commander of U.S. Pacific Command – early. McCain refused and put up with torture, solitary confinement and lackadaisical medical care.
Lesson for Today’s Service Members
McCain’s faith in the country saw him through the ordeal, Mattis said, and he wants service members today to learn from that.
“It’s primarily that they understand if you cherish the country it can carry you through the toughest of times,” the secretary said. “There’s no battle that can be thrown at you, there’s no POW status that can take that away from you. And it can sustain you all the way through.”
McCain’s belief and strength of character saw him through, Mattis said. And that, he added, is “what we are looking for in the character of the military – peacetime, wartime; routine, crisis.”
Mattis will be one of the pallbearers at the senator’s funeral. “It’s an honor,” he said simply.
(Follow Jim Garamone on Twitter: @GaramoneDoDNews)