By Chris Brennaman
KTOK, Meridian, Mississippi
March 31, 2008
John McCain’s Naval career is most defined by his commitment to service.
Following a near-death experience aboard the USS Forrestal in July of 1967, just a few months after being deployed to Vietnam, the then-Lieutenant Commander’s plane was hit by a missile. After the crash, McCain was taken as a prisoner of war for more than five and a half years.
But prior to his deployment, the presidential candidate spent some time at NAS Meridian as a flight instructor.
“They were some great years,” McCain said. “I really learned to fly here. When you teach flying is when really learn to fly. I enjoyed being an instructor here.”
McCain’s connection with NAS Meridian doesn’t end with his time spent there. In 1961, when the air station was commissioned, the operations area was named McCain Field after the late Admiral John S. McCain — the grandfather of the Arizona senator.
“My grandfather was one of the early Naval aviators,” McCain said. “He was in World War II. Our family is a Mississippi family — our roots are here — so it’s a great experience to be back.”
McCain knows first-hand how much Meridian supports the military, something which he credits with keeping the base open during several rounds of base closing commissions.
“I’m very proud of these young people that are serving,” McCain said. “They are turning out the highest quality product and the best pilots in the world. They, and our Air Force pilots are the best in the world.”
In addition to greeting those in the crowd, McCain spent some time with the Blue Angels pilots before leaving the base.
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