Honoring an American Patriot: Senator John McCain

The CFSI Board of Directors and staff extend their sympathies to the family of Senator John McCain on the loss of a true American hero, distinguished Senator of Arizona and an original co-chairman of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus.

History will capture so many important aspects of Senator McCain’s extraordinary life – his service to our country, including his five years in a prisoner of war camp; his distinguished career in the House and the Senate where he represented the state of Arizona for over 35 years; his two presidential campaigns; and his steadfast support for our nation’s military and countries seeking to break free from autocratic rule. But to those of us in the fire service who had the privilege of working with the Senator and his staff, he’ll also be remembered for his admiration and respect for our nation’s first responders and his contributions to making the fire service a safer profession.

In 2017, CFSI honored Senator McCain with its Legislator of the Year Award. This was the third time CFSI honored the Senator with this award. It was presented in recognition of his work on the AFG/SAFER/USFA Reauthorization legislation. While we often read about the sluggish pace of Congress and the polarization of the legislative process, Senator McCain – with the support of his fellow caucus co-chairs – was able to guide his reauthorization bill through the Senate without opposition – including at the committee level. Few major pieces of legislation have followed a similar glide path on Capitol Hill in recent years. CFSI also honored the Senator in 2006 for his work on public safety communications and in 2001 for the authorization legislation that established the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program.

Senator McCain personified the mission of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus – a mission that embraces the importance of working in the spirit of bipartisanship to advance issues for our nation’s fire and emergency services. Party affiliation meant little to the Senator as long as he was able to recruit fellow Senators to work with him on fire issues. The example he set as a caucus co-chair is one of the reasons why the fire caucus remains one of the most active and respected caucuses on Capitol Hill.

Then there was Senator McCain, the man of great character and sincerity to whom I will always be indebted. Throughout the years, I would often ask the Senator for personal favors in the form of sympathy notes to friends or family members who lost loved ones who served in the military or fire service. I requested US flags flown over the United States Capitol for special ceremonies – whether fire service-related – or in one case – for a friend who became a United States citizen. Approximately 20 years ago, I asked him for a congratulatory letter for my father-in-law’s WWII squadron that was reuniting for the first time since the end of the war. Instead of a letter, the Senator recorded a video message that was played at the reunion. He always delivered.

While we mourn his loss, his legacy will be preserved in the issues he fought for on our behalf – and there are many. To his wife, Cindy, and his children, the fire service extends its thoughts and prayers to you as we all mourn the loss of a true American patriot.

William M Webb
Executive Director
Congressional Fire Services Institute