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August 29, 2018

Barrasso Remembers U.S. Senator John McCain

“We would visit American troops overseas, and it was incredible to see the respect that he commanded no matter where he went. Our men and women in uniform looked at him in awe – and they hung on his every word. Foreign leaders did the same. John really was a reassuring figure around the world.”

Click here to watch Sen. Barrasso’s remarks.

WASHINGTON, D.C.— U.S. Senator John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) recently paid tribute to the late U.S. Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) on the floor of the U.S. Senate.

Excerpts of Senator Barrasso’s remarks:

“I come to the floor today to add my voice to the many around the world who are remembering our dear friend and our colleague John McCain.

“John McCain was a man of the highest character, courage, and credibility. Known for his stubborn courage and his heroic patriotism.

“He leaves a legacy of unquestioned devotion and love for his country and his family.

“When I first came to the Senate, John was very welcoming.

“He knew I’d been an orthopaedic surgeon, and he told me I really ought to take a look at his X-Rays.

“Of course, the X-Rays showed his many fractures that were the result of being shot down over Hanoi and the injuries that resulted from the crash and the subsequent beatings as a prisoner of war.

“It was out of pure generosity on his part that we became friends and traveling companions.

“John took great pride in this institution and knowing that none of us in this body of 100 left or right, Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal, none of us agreed with him 100 percent of the time.

“But every one of us respected him and the strength of his convictions. I always have.

“Probably no one knows the first person to give him the nickname of ‘Maverick,’ but he certainly lived up to it.

“For John, it was not about playing a character on television.

“For him, there was no switching between a public and private persona. He was the same when the cameras were off as when they were on.

“His voice would thunder on the Senate floor when he was stirred to outrage—incredible force and conviction.

“And so he came another affectionate nickname ‘Hurricane McCain.’

“His humor was legendary. He used his biting humor as a surface to air missile.

“We all know his incredible biography -- the courage he showed as a naval officer and as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

“It was a story that inspired millions of people around the world.

“And I could see it when we traveled the world together.

“We would visit American troops overseas, and it was incredible to see the respect that he commanded no matter where he went.

“Our men and women in uniform looked at him in awe – and they hung on his every word. Foreign leaders did the same.

“John really was a reassuring figure around the world.

“My first trip with John was Thanksgiving 2007, it was before he was the nominee for president, he was actually trailing significantly in the polls – and went to Iraq during the surge.

“We spent the day in Bagdad and in another location. And in the dark of night, flew out in to the Anbar province where his son, a marine, was serving.

“We had Thanksgiving dinner with a number of the soldiers. And when John got to see his son, he went to hug him, to lift his arms, but because of the orthopedic injuries that he had sustained until the end of his life, he had been unable to really lift his arms due to the fractures.

“So he was up on his toes, trying to hug his son in the Anbar province of Iraq.

“I had a change to have dinner with six Wyoming soldiers that evening and they had only one request of me – could I introduce them to Senator McCain?

“Our final trip was over Memorial Day this past year, 2017 – it was to Vietnam.

“We went to the lake where he had been shot down. It was a bipartisan group, Senator Coons of Delaware went along. We went to the Hanoi prison where he spent 5.5 years. We saw the cell. We went to the presidential palace.

“No matter where we went, he was met with a hero’s welcome.

“I don’t know how many people could have sustained and survived 5.5 years in that prison, with the beatings.

“It took a man of incredible courage and character and he gained credibility as well as a certainty for his own life.

“We also went to Cam Ranh Bay during that trip to Vietnam. Many Vietnam War veterans have been through that area.

“And they brought in the U.S.S. John McCain, the ship named after his father and his grandfather.

“And while there, we had a luncheon on the deck of the ship, and it was called ‘McCain Field.’ And he was greeted warmly by everyone and he greeted them just as warmly.

“Every senator who ever traveled with Senator McCain shared a common experience.

“It was being approached by someone on the street or in a restaurant and being asked are you were with Senator McCain.

“We would say yes. Then they would hand us a cell phone and ask if you would take a picture of me with Senator McCain. And of course, we would always say yes.

“You could see the reverence and respect that each of these individuals had for Senator McCain.

“People also respected his incredible legacy of service, and also his strength as one of the fiercest legislators in our nation’s history.

“It is fitting that a few weeks ago Congress paid tribute to him by passing the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019.

“Because we all know that caring for the military was an abiding concern in his career.

“He wanted to make sure that the men and women in uniform were treated fairly by their government – that they were respected, and that they were honored for their service.

“We get used to using the language of combat in all sorts of other areas where it doesn’t really belong.

“We talk about fierce political battles, we talk about hard-fought election campaigns.

“As someone who knew what real battles looked like, John had a realistic perspective on the political kind of battle.

“He took them seriously, and he never engaged in a fight where he didn’t believe that he was on the side of right.

“He never tired of ridiculing what he saw as wasteful government spending.

“Every soldier, every sailor, every airman knows that none of us are indispensable.

“We serve our mission -- and if we fall, another will step up to take our place. John understood that truth about public service.

“I think John would also understand the sincerity of our grief that members are feeling today.

“I remember vividly the last time I saw John McCain. I went to visit him and his wife Cindy at the ranch in Sedona.

“I will tell you, John and Cindy have been so kind to my wife Bobbi when we have visited the ranch in the past. I remember John taking my wife Bobbi on a tour of the many historic trees on the ranch.

“John has also been so very kind to my daughter Emma on her visits in Washington and some of her travels with me.

“Let me assure you about Cindy McCain. Cindy is also an American of great strength and great courage. When I was there, we sat together and we talked about the Senate, about his beloved Arizona, about the past and actually about the future as well, and about the places around the world we had visited together.

“Senator McCain was a great lover and student of history, and we talked of Teddy Roosevelt’s ‘Man in the Arena speech.

“And it goes: ‘It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes up short again and again ..... who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends his life in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement ..... and who ..... if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.’

“John McCain knew both. He knew victory and he knew defeat. John McCain was the man in the arena.

“Mostly, John and I sat and enjoyed the view of the river, the trees, and the red rocks. I know that view was one of his great joys, the peace and serenity of a hard landscape shaped by years of wear and weather.

“Think about that--the serenity of a hard landscape shaped by years of wear and weather.

“People will see all sorts of symbolism in that hard landscape shaped by years of wear and weather, but if John had heard me say that, he would have said: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot--get to the point. So I will.

“People will see all sorts of symbolism in that, but if John heard me say it, he’d say – Whiskey – Tango – Foxtrot – and get to the point.

“So I will.

“John McCain was the conscience of the Senate.

“He served the American people and the Senate on his own terms. He left us on his own terms as well.

“We grieve today because – for us – there was just not enough time.

“That’s the thing about our heroes – we start to believe that they will live forever.
But of course, they do not.

“Ronald Reagan’s final letter to the American people said this: ‘When the Lord calls me home, whenever that may be, I will leave with the greatest love for this country of ours and eternal optimism for its future.’

“John McCain has left this world – I can assure you – with the greatest love for this country of ours and eternal optimism for its future.

“Rest in Peace, my friend John McCain. Rest in Peace.”