ANNAPOLIS, Md. – It will be a appropriate last resting place for a man who provided valuable military service, and dear friendship, and had little patience for formalities.
Sen. John McCain, the Arizona Republican who died Saturday of brain cancer, will be buried on a grassy hill at the U. S. Naval Academy Cemetery in Annapolis, right next to a lifelong friend, within earshot of the next generation of the midshipmen, and in sight of the banks of the River Severn.
The senator is the choice to another one that showed his trademark of individuality. McCain, who died Saturday after battling brain cancer, was chosen for the out-of-the-way spot on the splendour and solemnity of Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, where his father and grandfather, both admirals —are buried. Instead, the decorated Vietnam War veteran, former prisoner of war and the six-term senator opted for a front-row seat next to his friend, Chuck Larson, himself an admiral and ally in McCain’s remarkable life.
“In the neighborhood, where our paths first crossed,” McCain wrote in his memoir of the site.
McCain’s office said on Sunday that Larson, who died in 2014, had reserved four plots on the site for themselves, McCain, and their wives, both now widows.
From the grassy place, the grunts and screams of dozens of the exercise of the midshipmen at Forrest Sherman Field, soar to the grave. Beyond that, the crew teams row by and around the peninsula at least since 1868 has served as the Naval Academy cemetery. Boats sail past, and the occasional car horns from the near of Baltimore Boulevard bridge is to interrupt the peace.
On Saturday, when McCain spent his last hours surrounded by family on his ranch in Arizona, his grave was already marked. “Sect-8 1704 McCain,” read a handwritten sign on a wooden post, noting the section and grave number, adjacent to Larson’s grave.
Between two wooden poles, was an orange traffic cone, a sentry that might have amused McCain with his unceremonious placement of a former presidential candidate in the midst of the elegant, weathered tombstones.
McCain and Larson friendship started at the academy, where McCain ranked near the bottom of the class of 1958. His best friend, Larson, finished near the top, gaining his diploma and the personal congratulations of President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
They were roommates by the flight school. Larson was commander-in-chief of the armed forces in the Pacific ocean. He was the second-youngest admiral in history. Larson was also named superintendent of the Naval Academy twice, the last time in 1994 with a mission to restore morale after the largest cheating scandal in the history.
McCain was shot down over Vietnam and tortured for five-and-a-half years as a prisoner of war. After his return to the U.S., he was elected to the House in 1982 and to the Senate in 1986. He ran unsuccessfully for the presidency in 2000 and 2008.
His rebellious nature sometimes frustrated his political allies and strained friendships. But Larson and McCain was “the best of friends,” McCain wrote.
McCain spoke at the academy as Larson, who died of leukemia at the age of 77, established in 1998.
During the speech, McCain said the midshipmen that the friendship was “one of the great honors of my life.” But then McCain noted that he does not like to dwell on the differences between them, such as the fact that Larson was “destined for greatness.” McCain said he preferred to think about a night during their last year at the academy, during which Larson was employed in a managerial capacity and McCain was “as usual busy in the form of officially prohibited activity (Larson) was expected to report.”
Specifically, McCain was the hosting of a mysterious party his crew saw a fight on tv. Larson attended. When an officer approached, the partygoers filled Larson in a crawl space.
“I always like to remember Chuck in that way, cringing in my closet, dressed in his formal blue uniform, his sword at his side….” McCain was referring to in the public.
Then McCain turned serious.
“Neither I, nor the Navy, nor the academy bid farewell today,” McCain said, according to the speech posted on his Senate website. “Saying goodbye is impossible. We are too close for too long to part company now.”
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