Montanans remember the life, sacrifices of Sen. John McCain

John McCain is shown on the day of his release after five years as a prisoner of war. (National Archives)

Montanans joined all of America Saturday night in mourning the passing of Sen. John McCain, a hero of the Vietnam War who came home to serve his country another 60 years in public life.

He was 81.

The state’s political leaders posted their condolences and words of praise for McCain’s steadfast devotion to family and country soon after the senator’s death was announced.

“John McCain spent every day of his life fighting for Americans,” wrote U.S. Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana. “He led by example and he transcended politics because he was never afraid to buck both parties to do what he thought was right. He was a friend of mine in the Senate and it was my honor to serve alongside this true American hero.”

Montana Attorney General Tim Fox posted a photograph of himself and the late senator on Twitter, saying “few #Americans have contributed and sacrificed as much as Senator John McCain.”

Sen. John McCain died at his home in Sedona, Arizona, late Saturday afternoon. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

“Thank you, Senator, for your exemplary public service and dedication to our Country,” Fox wrote. “May you Rest in Peace, and may your family find peace and comfort in the memory of your life well lived.”

U.S. Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., also delivered his sympathies via Twitter, saying: “Cindy and I express our deepest condolences to Cindy McCain, Roberta McCain and the rest of the McCain family.”

A day earlier, after McCain’s wife had said the senator was refusing any further medical treatment, Daines said this: “John McCain is an American hero. I’m grateful for his lifetime of service to our country, and praying for comfort and peace for him, and his loved ones, during this most difficult time.”

Congressional candidate Kathleen Williams also offered a statement.

“John McCain’s independent thinking and willingness to stand up for what was right leaves an incredible mark on our country,” Williams said. “His dedication to our country and military record is a legacy to his lifetime of service. My thoughts are with his family and friends.”

Helena Mayor Wilmot Collins was among the first to share his thoughts on McCain’s passing.

“John McCain was and will forever be an American hero and a man who possessed fine moral character,” Collins wrote on Twitter. “His service and dedication to this country is something we should all be grateful for. May his soul rest in perfect peace.”

Collins is the state’s first black mayor and an immigrant to the United States.

Outside Montana, the tributes came from all corners.

Former president Barack Obama, who defeated McCain for the presidency in 2008, wrote this:

“John McCain and I were members of different generations, came from completely different backgrounds, and competed at the highest level of politics.

“But we shared, for all our differences, a fidelity to something higher — the ideals for which generations of Americans and immigrants alike have fought, marched and sacrified. We saw our political battles, even, as a privilege.

“Few of us have been tested the way John once was, or required to show the kind of courage that he did. But all of us can aspire to the courage to put the greater good above our own. At John’s best, he showed us what that means. And for that, we are all in his debt.”

CNN reported Saturday evening that McCain requested that Obama and former president George W. Bush deliver eulogies at his funeral.

“Some lives are so vivid, it is difficult to imagine them ended. Some voices are so vibrant, it is hard to think of them stilled,” Bush wrote in a statement released shortly after the senator’s death.

“John McCain was a man of deep conviction and a patriot of the highest order,” Bush said. “He was a public servant in the finest traditions of our country. And to me, he was a friend whom I’ll deeply miss.”