On His Final Flight, We Arizonans Pause To Mourn & Give Thanks

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I stole this picture from a friend’s social media post since I experienced this tearful moment by live radio.  I won’t soon forget that or the man, the Maverick. 

I am not a political person by nature.  I vote on the issues and not by party.  But there is one person that I always voted for.  Every time.  Today as I was driving soup over to my ill friend, I listened to the coverage on my car radio of the departure of the plane carrying the casket of our beloved and respected state leader, the late Senator John McCain.  I also heard the wonderful voice of my friend, Bruce Haffner saying farewell and thank you to our great Senator McCain over the FAA frequency. I heard the CNN anchor choke up.  As I drove, I reflected and choked up, too.

As I write this, Senator McCain’s casket and his family are on their way to Washington DC, a route my family and I take often since that is my birthplace.  Like Senator McCain, I am a self-proclaimed Arizonan. Even though I didn’t move to the desert state until 1979 at the age of 12, this is home. Even during my wonderful years in Austin at the University of Texas earning my journalism degree, I always missed Arizona and was happy to return.

John McCain represented us Arizonans in Congress when I attended high school in Mesa in the 80s and was then my senator when I came back post-college in 1992. I met him several times during my years as a Marketing Manager with Southwest Airlines and again during my time in the newsroom at KTVK. Always impressive and lively. Always marched to the beat of his own drum and got things done because of it.  As we know, he was a true hero in every sense of the word having proven that.  He crossed party lines and he crossed 2,000 miles of our country by air over and over again to both represent us on issues in a way that he believed was righteous and fair…and to return home to nuture his family on the weekends.  Not an easy balancing act, but he did it.  He set the example.

As a mother of two almost grown children now at this point in my life, I greatly care about the future for the next generation.  It feels a bit scary to not have the maverick there in DC working so hard to bring intregity, honor and the do-the-right-thing mantra to every debate, decision and vote our leaders engage in to keep our country moving forward.

But we must keep the faith as Mr. McCain so eloquently shared in his final written message to all of us.  He even set the example on how to leave this earth gracefully.

And a small personal note and story.  My mother once told me that on one of her flights back to DC after visiting me and my family, the senator smiled and said hello to her as she had smiled in recogintion of him. She was surprised and impressed to see him ride in coach. Always a class act and a leader for every man and every woman.

A feisty maverick who stood up for what he believed in.

And he apologized to his constituents when he made mistakes.  You don’t see that everyday, sadly.

Today in AZ so many of us are feeling especially sad as that plane departs to DC to once again take Senator McCain to our nation’s capitol…but this time no return flight will bring him back to our desert, to the state he worked so hard to make great.

Grateful we are.

RIP as Arizona has said her final goodbye to the man who defined the word HERO.