“A man does a lot of praying in an enemy prison. Prayer, even more than sheer thought, is the firmest anchor.” — Jeremiah Denton (US Senate 1981-1987 & POW 1965-1973)

As I was born in 1960, I came of age during the Vietnam War. It was the lead story every night on the news and we watched the news before sitting down for supper. Except for family, in my youth, there was probably nobody we prayed more for than the POW’s. Similar to how people say regarding the plane crash “George Mickelson seven others,” we said “Leo Thorsness* and the POW’s.”

These men were the heroes of my childhood. I met three of these heroes.
• I shook the hand of Leo Thorsness during his Senate campaign outside the Ben Franklin in Pierre.
• Because I dated a staffer of Senator Jeremiah Denton, his office was directly one floor above Senator Abdnor and we often saw each other at Mass during Lent and other Holy Days (took the elevator down, walked to and from Mass, sat together, and elevator again just the two of us once), I got to know Senator Denton personally which gave me some level of insight in what being a POW does to a person and their family. When I heard of his death a few years ago, I actually teared up.
• John McCain was elected to the US House and on two occasions I had the privilege to shake his hand. Like Thorsness, no real conversation but thrilling just the same.

With that background, I need to give some other background. Senator Abdnor had two “mads.” One was his “let me tell you something friend” mad which wasn’t good because you sensed he wanted to tear your head off but wasn’t going to because you were his friend. The other is hard to describe but he would pull his lips close to his teeth and almost seeth when he was talking. This was really, really bad.

Anyway, Senator Abdnor was on the House side “doing business” and I was the staffer trailing him and taking notes. One of the people he spoke to was Congressman McCain. The conversation was private so I couldn’t hear but I could see. It was heated and before it ended I could see the “seething mad.”

Later, when I had a chance, I asked Abdnor what happened with McCain that caused him to get so mad. Jim looked at me with as an ashamed look as I ever saw him have and he said, “John McCain is a hero and didn’t deserve what I said.” That was it. I don’t even know the subject much less what was said.

When I got the news text Senator McCain (with Collins, Murkowski, and 100% of the Democratic Caucus) had voted against any reform of Obamacare, I seethed. I wanted to strike out. But, I’m trying to be like Jim Abdnor. John McCain is dying and he is a hero. I’ve prayed for him both in my youth and as an adult.

I know I can never be the man Jim Abdnor was but every now and then I have my moments where I step up. But it is really hard right now. Really hard.

*Leo Thorsness was from Minnesota, graduated from SDSU, married a SD girl, and I faintly remember somehow our family knew him or someone close to him. My guess is that is why we said his name and not the others.

8 Replies to ““A man does a lot of praying in an enemy prison. Prayer, even more than sheer thought, is the firmest anchor.” — Jeremiah Denton (US Senate 1981-1987 & POW 1965-1973)”

  1. Springer

    He is a hero for what he went through. But sadly he might now be remembered more for ensuring Obamacare remains and the way to single payer is paved. Maybe this was also a way to “repay” Trump for beating him in the primary? I do not think this will serve McCain’s legacy well.

    Reply
    1. Anonymous

      good analysis except McCain was not in the primary against Trump….everyone else in the GOP seemed to be but McCain ran in 2000 and 2008.

      Reply
    2. Fled to Red

      For those truly in the know McCain will be remembered for his non-gentlemanly conduct and dalliances while at the Naval Academy and the way he treated his first wife. Never having been in prison, I can’t blame him for his conduct during that time and will not comment on other rumors surrounding his prior service.

      Anyone who has followed his Senate career is not surprised by this vote. History may try to spin this as having been affected by the brain tumor, but his records speaks for itself.

      Reply
  2. Anonymous

    The thing that amuses me most of all is the willingness of those disappointed, R or D, to forget that a vote at the end of the day is a personal thing. You can be pressured, swayed, harassed, or appeased to vote a certain way but in the end a person, a lone individual, must cast one vote. God Bless John McCain as he faces now the second toughest challenge i’m aware of in his life. He had to vote yeah or nay, he voted, the sun rose this morning and we all move forward. Don’t like it? Send him a letter, call his office, run for the senate yourself but he held his right to vote as he did.

    Reply
  3. Springer

    It was his right to vote as he did but rather ingenuous when he won his seat this time around campaigning against Obamacare.

    This hard. Really hard. On so many levels. Your comment. Supporting him in 2000.

    Reply
  4. Charlie Hoffman

    1960 was a vintage year in many ways.
    Maybe there is a greater good to come of this we know not now. When things seem totally out of control some people truly do amazing things and Trump is one of those people.
    Still being alive means we are still in the game and this game is going long and left for a while yet.

    Reply
  5. Sam Kooiker

    Troy, I rarely post to blogs but want you to know this is a great post. Jim Abdnor was such a special person and I am grateful for the opportunity to have known him. He loved Chinese food and one of his favorite spots in Rapid City was the Golden Phoenix on West Main St. I sure enjoyed my visits with him. By example, he taught us all how to win with grace – and how to lose with grace. He taught me there is no shame in America in losing an election or a particular vote on an issue as long as we recognize the strength in America is greater than one person, one party or even one generation.

    I will never forget him. There aren’t many people like him in politics anymore.

    Sam, you bet. Jim is amazing. He is very proud of two of his protégés who are our US Senators, of whom John Thune i know him to be especially proud, Lee Schoenbeck, and our new US Deputy Secretary of Agriculture, Steve Censky. They aren’t all of whom he mentored but those in the news now. (Troy).

    Reply
  6. anonymous

    Having a disease or cancer or AIDS or surviving POW experience is not a get-out-of-criticisim card. A jerk is a jerk regardless of ones past or present circumstances.

    To avoid criticizing that which should be criticized or condemned is to treat the wrongdoer as less than human. For us religious folks, Christ demands nothing less. For nonreligious folks, basic morality and civility demands that we hold jerks accountable for their jerkified behaviors.

    John McCain is human. He can take whatever some no body in SD might have to say about his vote in light of his previous promises to repeal Obamacare.

    McCain has always been a jerk. He himself has said so.

    Reply

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