U.S. Senator John McCain, a fixture in Arizona politics for nearly four decades, died of an aggressive form of brain cancer on August 25, four days shy of his 82nd birthday.
The son and grandson of Admirals, McCain graduated from The United States Naval Academy in 1958. An aviator, in October 1967 he was shot down over Hanoi and held as a prisoner of war by the North Vietnamese for over five years, enduring torture and refusing an out-of-sequence release from captivity offered to him because of his famous father.
Upon retiring from the Navy, he moved to Arizona, where he was first elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1982 and the U.S. Senate in 1986. In office he gained the reputation and nickname of "maverick," dubbed such due to his willingness to put principle over partisanship. He sought the Republican nomination for President in 2000, and achieved it in 2008, losing that year's general election to fellow Senator Barack Obama. Throughout his career, he was highly respected by colleagues of both parties.
McCain visited U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground (YPG) many times over the years to visit test sites and learn about the post's vital mission. When YPG's Armament Operations Center building was dedicated in February 1997 and named for Sgt. Bravie Soto, the first Yuma County resident killed in the Vietnam War, McCain delivered keynote remarks.
"They left places like the Cocopah Reservation to go to a place 10,000 miles away to a conflict they didn't understand, and they gave the supreme sacrifice," he said at the ceremony. "We express our sorrow and our gratitude that America produces men like Bravie Soto."
Through the years, McCain kept abreast of YPG's growing importance in testing virtually every piece of equipment in the ground combat arsenal.
"I'm deeply impressed at the direct contribution being made at YPG to the war effort in Iraq and Afghanistan," McCain said during a 2010 visit to the proving ground. "It used to be a long period of time between testing and use on the battlefield, and now it's almost instantaneous. This has saved untold American lives."
All members of the YPG workforce extend their deepest condolences to the McCain family and wish the Senator fair winds and following seas.