Meeting Senator John McCain
By: Kris Hazelton
I was very excited when I heard that Senator John McCain was coming to Estes Park. You see, I have always felt I had a special connection with John McCain.
When I was ten years old, I purchased a POW bracelet at a high school football game, for $2.00. Thousands of such bracelets sold across the country. The inscription on my bracelet, LTCDR John McCain III, 10-26-67. Little did I know, that the name I would memorize and pray for on my bracelet, would be the man I would meet on August 24, 2009!
I prayed for McCain, a Navy flier during the Vietnam War, who spent 5 1/2 years in captivity in North Vietnam after his plane was shot down in 1967 during a bombing run over Hanoi.
I wore my POW bracelet 24/7, as a symbol of hope that he would one day return home to his family. I watched the news, day in and day out, for the name of LTCDR John McCain III to come home. Then, in 1973, my Mom brought me a page from the Chicago Sun-Times that made my heart leap! Lt. Cmdr. John McCain was coming home! The photo showed McCain’s wife and their two young sons, so very happy that McCain had been released and was on his way home!
What to do now, suddenly take off the bracelet I had worn for so many years? That bracelet had actually become a part of my life! I wore the bracelet for a few weeks more, and then, decided it was time to free John McCain from my wrist. I took off the bracelet, thanked God for his safe return and put it in my jewelry box. At first, it felt very strange not to wear the bracelet, it had been so much a part of my life, for a very long time.
The bracelet sat in my jewelry box for many years.
One day, while listening to the television news, I heard a familiar name. “Senator John McCain from Arizona” the newscaster stated. The name stirred a memory in the crevices of my mind. “That, was my POW’s name!” I thought to myself. I went to my jewelry box and dug through the beads, rings and chains and eventually found my beloved bracelet I had placed there so many years ago. I carefully picked it up and glanced at the name….it was the same! I knew it! My POW had become a state senator! I quickly sat down and wrote a letter to Senator McCain and told him I had worn the bracelet that bore his name for many years. I also told him I had prayed for his safe return and for strength for his family, and if he would like the bracelet, I would gladly send it to him.
I soon got a letter back, thanking me very graciously for wearing the bracelet with his name, however, he told me to hang onto the bracelet, and keep it safe.
When Sen. McCain became a Presidential candidate, I once again dug the bracelet out of my jewelry box and had high hopes for him winning the election. That was not to be, but I was proud nonetheless and kept the faith that ‘my’ POW was a man of great leadership, character and bravery.
Imagine my excitement when last week, Kyle Patterson, PIO at RMNP sent me the press release that Sen. John McCain was coming to Estes Park! I immediately wondered if I would finally have the chance to meet this man I felt I have known for so many years.
When I saw Sen. McCain get off the bus at Hollowell Park on Monday, I felt my heart actually skip a beat.
I mentioned to Town Trustees Eric Blackhurst and Dorla Eisenlauer as well as Kyle Patterson from RMNP, that I was wearing my McCain POW bracelet. Somehow, the word got to Sen. McCain and after his press conference in the park, they found me in the crowd and whisked me over to Sen. McCain where I was finally able to meet him, and tell him how I had worn his bracelet for so many years.
When I showed him the bracelet on my wrist, his face softened and he grinned, ear to ear. His arms extended out for a hug, which I gladly accepted. He graciously thanked me for wearing his bracelet and also showed me a bracelet he now wears, given to him by a mother of a soldier killed in action.
POW bracelets were the Livestrong reminders of my youth, nudging us to always remember those who might easily be forgotten or overlooked, or maybe needed some extra prayers.
When I purchased that bracelet so many years ago, I never dreamed it would become a piece of American history, for my bracelet bore the name of a young man who would eventually become a U.S. Senator and a candidate for president: John McCain III.
It was an honor to meet him.