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US Senator, War Hero John McCain Dead at 81

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United States Senator John McCain, the Republican 2008 presidential nominee and former prisoner of war, has died after battling cancer for more than a year. He was 81.

His Senate office announced his death in a statement, “Senator John Sidney McCain III died at 4:28pm on August 25, 2018. With the Senator when he passed were his wife Cindy and their family. At his death, he had served the United States of America faithfully for sixty years.”

His wife Cindy wrote on Twitter: “My heart is broken. I am so lucky to have lived the adventure of loving this incredible man for 38 years. He passed the way he lived, on his own terms, surrounded by the people he loved, in the place he loved best.”

U.S. President Donald Trump offered his “deepest sympathies and respect” to the McCain family. He added on Twitter, “Our hearts and prayers are with you!”

Earlier on Friday, McCain’s family said he had chosen to “discontinue medical treatment.”

In July 2017, doctors found the cancerous growth and operated on McCain. Two weeks later, he returned to the Senate floor and cast the deciding vote against a Republican measure to end the Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare.

The vote was seen as a setback for Trump. As a presidential candidate, Trump had questioned McCain’s public image. Trump said, “He’s not a war hero. He was a war hero because he was captured. I like people who weren’t captured.”

FILE - In this March 14, 1973, file photo, U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. John McCain, center, is escorted by Lt. Cmdr. Jay Coupe Jr., to Hanoi, Vietnam's Gia Lam Airport, after McCain was released from captivity. An aide says that McCain died Saturday, Aug. 25, 2018. He was 81. (AP Photo/Horst Faas, File)
FILE - In this March 14, 1973, file photo, U.S. Navy Lt. Cmdr. John McCain, center, is escorted by Lt. Cmdr. Jay Coupe Jr., to Hanoi, Vietnam's Gia Lam Airport, after McCain was released from captivity. An aide says that McCain died Saturday, Aug. 25, 2018. He was 81. (AP Photo/Horst Faas, File)

Prisoner of war

McCain was born on August 29, 1936 at a U.S. naval station in Panama. The son and grandson of U.S. Navy admirals, McCain became a fighter pilot after he completed studies at the U.S. Naval Academy.

On October 26, 1967, McCain’s airplane was shot down during a bombing run over North Vietnam. He broke both his arms and a leg in the crash and sank to the bottom of a lake in Hanoi.

In his own words, McCain said, “Some North Vietnamese swam out and pulled me to the side of the lake and immediately started stripping me.” McCain said a crowd quickly gathered, shouting insults and kicking him.

The North Vietnamese soon learned that McCain was the son of a high-level commander of U.S. forces and offered him early release. McCain refused.

For five and a half years, he was imprisoned and tortured by the North Vietnamese. He was finally released, along with other American prisoners of war on March 14, 1973, after the cease-fire.

Entering politics

McCain retired from the Navy and moved to the American state of Arizona in 1981, where he married his second wife, Cindy Hensley. He has seven children, including three from his first marriage with Carol Shepp.

The former prisoner of war easily won election to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1982. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1986.

McCain generally represented the conservative traditions of his home state and the Republican Party. But he also was known to act independently at times.

In the 1980s, McCain was one of five senators accused of helping a political donor, Charles Keating, to avoid financial regulations. Keating’s actions led to a banking crisis that cost American taxpayers billions of dollars.

McCain then became a leading supporter of campaign finance reform.

He was also known for supporting the restoration of diplomatic relations with Vietnam, as well as increasing troops deployment to Iraq.

Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., right, speaks to the crowd as Sarah Palin looks on at a campaign rally at the Pima County Fairgrounds in Tucson, Ariz. on Friday, March 26, 2010.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., right, speaks to the crowd as Sarah Palin looks on at a campaign rally at the Pima County Fairgrounds in Tucson, Ariz. on Friday, March 26, 2010.

Running for president

McCain first sought the Republican nomination for president in 2000. He lost the nomination to George W. Bush.

In 2008, McCain won the Republican presidential nomination. In the general election, he lost to Barack Obama, the son of a Kenyan father and an American mother.

In a memorable moment during the campaign, McCain defended his Democratic opponent when one of his supporters said she “can’t trust Obama” and that “he’s an Arab.”

McCain said, 'No, ma'am. He's a decent family man [and] citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues and that's what this campaign's all about. He's not [an Arab].'

Returning to the Senate

When he returned to the Senate, McCain became one of the leaders of the opposition against President Barack Obama. He criticized Obama’s policies connected to the war against terror.

In 2015, McCain became chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee. He was considered a leading voice for military and foreign issues.

When McCain was asked how he wanted to be remembered, he said, “That I made a major contribution to the defense of the nation.”

Hai Do wrote this story for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.

Words in This Story

faithfully - adv. having or showing true and constant support or loyalty

adventure - n. an exciting experience

incredible - adj. extremely good, great, or large

cast - v. to make (a vote) formally

strip - v. to remove your clothing

regulation - n. an official rule or law that says how something should be done

contribution - n. something that is done to cause something to happen

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