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John McCain: Beacon of the Baby Boom

John McCain: Beacon of the Baby Boom

by Kevin Kelton

A lot of people this week are honoring Sen. John McCain for his service in Vietnam, citing his valor as a POW. But McCain’s place in history has deeper significance than just that story itself. Here are three reasons that John McCain will forever live in American history.

  1. There are only four names that people will remember in fifty years about the military men of the Vietnam War: Gen. William Westmoreland, Lieutenant William Calley, Lt. John Kerry and Lt. John McCain. The first two will be remembered as villains, and Kerry, the hero turned war critic, will get mixed reviews in some quarters. Only John McCain will universally be remembered favorably for his distinguished service in Vietnam. Of course, each family that lost a relative will long remember their loved one’s honorable sacrifice. But in the annals of history only McCain will famously embody it. He will be the George Washington or the Ulysses Grant or the Douglas McArthur of the Vietnam era. 
  2. The historic heroes of any war reflect the national sentiment about that war. George Washington and Patrick Henry are remembered for their selfless love of country. George Patton, Audie Murphy, Sgt. Alvin York and others from World War II are remembered for their steely determination to defend the world from fascism. The image of the Vietnam War will be more nuanced, about a long quagmire that engulfed a nation and held it hostage. In that regard, McCain perfectly embodies Vietnam. His legacy is not about victorious battles and defeating an enemy. It’s about being taken hostage in a war that was un-winnable, and serving honorably while being held hostage for a long time.
  3. Finally, though he was born a decade before the start of the baby boom, McCain’s life is a perfect metaphor for the baby boom generation: a generation born into war and painfully tormented by it, that then went on to build the best world they could for the remainder of the 20th and 21st centuries.

John McCain embodies all of that. He is the epitome of the best of the baby boom generation. And that is why he will forever be an American legend.

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