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John McCain: Vietnam vet, 30-year senator and presidential nominee dies after battle with cancer

Posted: 6:24 PM, Aug 25, 2018
Updated: 2018-08-26 17:25:50Z

Arizona Sen. John McCain, a former Republican presidential nominee and prisoner of war, has died after a battle with an aggressive form of brain cancer.

The 30-year Arizona Senator leaves behind wife, Cindy, and 7 children.

John Sidney McCain III, 81, was the son and grandson of Navy admirals. He was born August 29, 1936.

As a naval pilot, he narrowly escaped death in a fire aboard the USS Forrestal in 1967. Also in 1967, McCain's plane was shot down over Hanoi, and he was captured by North Vietnamese troops. He was tortured during more than five years as a prisoner of war.

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After retiring from the Navy in 1981, he moved in Arizona and ran for Congress, winning a U.S. House seat the following year.

After two terms, he was elected to the U.S. Senate, succeeding Barry Goldwater, and served in the role until his death.

McCain married Cindy Hensley, his second wife, in 1980. She is the daughter of an Arizona beer distributor.

McCain is father to seven children, including Bridget, a daughter adopted from Bangladesh. Another daughter, Meghan McCain, is a television host on ABC’s The View.

A low point in his political career came when McCain was implicated in the Keating Five campaign contribution scandal of the 1980s. The senator emerged with a new passion to reform money in politics. Called a maverick, he bucked his party as he worked with Democrats on campaign finance and other issues.

McCain also campaigned for president in 2000 and 2008. In 2008, he won the Republican nomination with a surprising choice of running mate, then-Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin.

After his second failed presidential bid, McCain continued as senator, assuming the role of an elder statesman. He visited troops overseas and dug into foreign policy. 

McCain, due to the lasting impacts of his torture as a POW, could not lift his arms above his head. He had other health scares, including bouts of skin cancer that left a large scar on his cheek. In July 2017, Sen. McCain was diagnosed with glioblastoma, the deadly brain cancer which took his life.

Even in his waning days, McCain lived up to his reputation as a maverick. In August 2017, less than two weeks after surgery to remove his tumor, McCain returned to the U.S. Senate floor to become the deciding "no" vote on repealing Obamacare.

Senator McCain had a joke he famously told throughout his life. Whenever he got upsetting news, he said he slept like a baby, explaining that he slept two hours, woke up and cried, then slept two more hours and did the same. It’s that wit that many of his closest friends say they’ll remember him by in the days ahead.

No funeral arrangements have been announced, but in an interview with “60 Minutes”, Senator McCain recently said he wanted the ceremony to take place at the Naval Academy in Maryland.