SACRAMENTO -- A war hero, a senator, a conservative maverick -- that’s how people across the world are remembering and honoring Senator John McCain.
The 81-year-old died Saturday after stopping treatment for an aggressive brain tumor and veterans in Sacramento mourned the loss of the senator.
“I was in the Marine Corps for three years, 10 months, two days and five hours but I’m not counting,” said veteran Don Harper.
As a decorated Vietnam veteran, Harper knows what it means to serve his country.
“We were proud to go, we were proud to fight for our country and we were proud to do whatever was necessary to get the mission done,” Harper said.
A spirit he says was best exemplified by McCain.
“It was a very sad day for the country. John McCain was a hero in my eyes his whole life,” Harper expressed.
McCain was a naval pilot, conservative senator and a former presidential candidate. But, of all McCain’s accomplishments, Harper will remember him best for his bravery as he was being held for more than five years as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam.
“Your character is not what it is when things are going well, when things are going bad that’s when your character shows. And he showed so much character being a prisoner and getting through that,” Harper said.
For Air Force veteran Tony Creel, McCain set a standard for serving others that he strives to live up to.
“You look up to him and respect him and say, 'Maybe I might be able to aspire to be like him,'” Creel said.
Now Harper and Creel are working to help homeless veterans through Sacramento Stand Down. It's a mission they hope would make McCain proud.
“We don’t leave any of our brothers behind on the battlefield or sisters behind on the battlefield and we don’t want to leave them behind here in the states. Each one of them, in their own right, is a patriot trying to meet the standard that was set by Senator McCain,” Creel said.