By Kyle Collins
To understand Sen. John McCain, one must look to his experience. As a veteran, McCain knows the horrors of war up close and has felt its pain which is foreign to most Americans. While he was serving in the Vietnam War, his plane was shot down over enemy territory. McCain was captured by the North Vietnamese and while a prisoner of war (POW) he was routinely beaten. When his captors demanded he give them information on his squadron mates, McCain was quoted as saying, “I named the starting lineup of the defensive line of the Pittsburgh Steelers.” While a POW, he was offered the opportunity to leave when the North Vietnamese discovered he was the son of an admiral. However, McCain staunchly refused to disrespect military code, which states POWs are to leave in order of capture. During his 5 1/2 years as a POW, he sustained injuries that still affect him today. For instance, typing on a computer causes excruciating pain in his arms.
McCain visited Iraq shortly after the beginning of the war. To his dismay, he saw a strategy in chaos. McCain returned to Washington demanding a change and became the strongest advocate for the increase of troops in Iraq. He was in the minority for some time, calling for needed change until it was finally implemented. The strategy dubbed the “Surge” was then roundly criticized. Dissenters thought we were only mediating a “civil war” and we should pull out, which would have left Iraq in absolute chaos, a terrorist heaven. However, Gen. David Petraeus and our troops never lost faith in the surge. They withstood and put Iraq on a path towards democracy. It was not an easy challenge for our troops and their families. Many sacrifices were made and many heroes are now honored.
McCain has made a promise that those lives will not be lost in vain, and we will complete the mission. America will not allow Iraq to become a failed nation like Sudan, plagued by terrorism and a humanitarian disaster zone; nor can it fall to the influence of Iran. We must lift the Iraqis to their feet so that they can govern themselves, protect their own people and vote in elections without fearing death for their opinion of the leader, as under Saddam.
Our troops have made tremendous progress. Violence in Iraq is down significantly, 80 percent since last summer. Moreover, in September alone, the Iraqi Parliament approved a much-needed provincial election law and Americans turned over Anbar Providence, once one of the most dangerous places in Iraq, back to Iraqi control. McCain has the judgment to shepherd us through Iraq as well as the ability to lead us to a more secure world.
For our troops returning home, they have a friend in McCain. He has been the strongest advocate for better treatment for veterans. McCain has worked diligently to provide new education assistance to reservists, some of whom we are honored to have as classmates today. Moreover, McCain has worked tirelessly to ease the transition from soldier to citizen. As a veteran himself, McCain knows the sacrifices they make and the treatment they deserve.
Whether or not you agree with Sen. McCain on Iraq, do one thing: Thank our troops for their service. thank those who volunteered for the good of democracy, while knowing they may possibly give, as a wise man once said, “all of their tomorrows for our today.”