Lord, guard and guide the men who fly
Through the great spaces in the sky.
Be with them always in the air,
In darkening storms or sunlight fair;
Oh, hear us when we lift our prayer,
For those in peril in the air!

If you don’t recognize them, the lines above are the modified verse of the Navy Hymn, Eternal Father, that’s sung for naval aviators.  Pilots like John McCain.

It was so sad to hear of McCain’s passing.  Not that it was unexpected, of course–the kind of cancer he developed is particularly nasty–but it’s an extremely big loss nonetheless.  It’s going to take a while to process.

Being a Navy brat, I learned early of McCain’s heroics.  McCain’s father delivered the commencement address to my dad’s class of midshipmen while McCain was captive in Hanoi, and that speech struck a chord with both my parents that they still talk about to this day.  Later, when I was older, I read books like They Wouldn’t Let Us Die to learn about how the P.O.W.s had survived the kind of torture few of us could even imagine.  And that’s not even to mention his survival of the fire on the USS Forrestal, a disaster that changed the way the Navy trained and aircraft carriers were outfitted.

Like one of my other political heroes, Teddy Roosevelt, I appreciated McCain’s honesty, his willingness to be a “maverick” to do what was right even if it wasn’t popular.  Neither man was perfect; like all, real-life figures, McCain disappointed me in the moments when he failed to live up to the ideals he’d established for himself.  But, through it all, even when I completely disagreed with him, I never doubted that he loved our country.

Many more eloquent, more important people who knew McCain better than me will ring in on his legacy over the next few weeks.  For my part, though, I’ll miss him, his contributions to our country, and the example of service that he set.  I wish his family peace.