My husband had a soft spot in his heart for John McCain. There was a reason.
Somewhere around here I still have the order of the day, a ship’s daily newsletter, from October 28, 1967. Rick saved it from when he was on the USS King - DLG 10.
He was not supposed to save it. He was not supposed to smoke dope with the quartermasters in the signalmen’s little cabin when they were all on watch, either. I’m just saying. It was Vietnam. A lot of things happened that weren’t supposed to happen.
This particular order notes that the day before they picked up a distress signal from a plane going down but did not see the plane or pilot out in the Tonkin Gulf.
The King was stationed on North SARS – SARS being “Search and Rescue.” They picked up pilots who came flaming out over the Vietnamese jungles and ditched in the Tonkin Gulf. The ship cruised up and down the northern coast of Vietnam, fending off occasional forays by Viet Cong who came out in boats of all sizes to shoot at them with rifles, and leaving a trail of ship’s garbage in the water.
Rick realized later that the distress signal they picked up was from John McCain’s airplane. Now, the plane went down in a lake in Hanoi, so there was never any question of the King being able to rescue McCain, but Rick still took it to heart that they had not been able to help him. After he learned McCain’s story, he wished for the rest of his life that they’d been able to pick McCain up and bring him safely back to an American hospital.
In listening to the accolades following McCain’s death this week, I was interested to hear it said that his POW experience was the making of him. He was a bit of a screw-off in the Naval Academy, but in Vietnam he was tempered by beatings, torture, and the camaraderie among the prisoners. He became the extraordinary person he was forever after.
Rick always respected McCain, and so did I when I learned his story. After someone dies you see them in clearer perspective, but that clear perspective is consistent with what we both thought about John McCain.
If there is a heaven, and I believe there is because I will be pissed if Rick isn’t there to meet me when I die, I hope Rick was part of the crowd welcoming John McCain.
Fair winds and a following sea! Rest in peace, you two.