U.S. Senator John McCain’s life and legacy remembered in Vietnam

The death of U.S. Senator John McCain on August 25 has evoked an outpouring of sentiment in both the United States and in Vietnam, where McCain’s honorable military service and political leadership made a profound and lasting difference.

In the United States, John McCain served in the U.S. Senate for more than three decades. One of his most significant contributions as a senator was to help reconcile U.S. relations with Vietnam in 1995 — an achievement of both personal and professional significance.

John McCain smiling in front of microphones (© Matt Rourke/AP Images)
Senator John McCain received the Liberty Medal in 2017 for his pursuit of freedom for people worldwide.  (© Matt Rourke/AP Images)

As a young U.S. Navy pilot, McCain was shot down over Hanoi, Vietnam, in 1967. He spent the next five-and-a-half years as a prisoner of war in extremely harsh conditions. Years later, Senator McCain returned to Hanoi on a very different mission — to heal the relationship of two countries once at war, and now strategic partners.

To honor McCain’s personal and political achievements, and to commemorate the wounds of the past, the people of Vietnam erected a monument on the spot where McCain landed after parachuting from his damaged jet. Today they pay their respects to the once prisoner of war, now a symbol of reconciliation.