The 2008 presidential bid must be our last great memory of John McCain. Had he won, John McCain would’ve been the oldest President of the United States. But this guy is also remembered for many other things. Before diving into politics, he was known as a Navy brat and became a prisoner of war. In between his military and political career, he had been known for his defiant-and-rebel attitude.

The Fruit Doesn’t Fall Far From the Tree

John McCain wasn’t the first in his family to enter the military. As the son and grandson of four-star admirals, McCain was unsurprisingly raised in traditional military ways that could be traced back to before the American Revolution. His great uncle, Brigadier General “Wild Bill” McCain, served directly under General Pershing in Mexico. General Henry Pinckney McCain fought in the Battle of Manila, established the selective service during World War I, and was an adjutant general of the Army. Other McCains also served in the Confederacy during the Civil War. There were also some who served as General Washington’s staff, while Washington himself was John McCain’s cousin many times removed.

President Richard Nixon Greets Former Vietnam Prisoner of War John McCain, Jr. at a Pre-POW Dinner Reception. (Series: Nixon White House Photographs, 1/20/1969 – 8/9/1974 Collection: White House Photo Office Collection (Nixon Administration), 1/20/1969 – 8/9/1974, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

It isn’t so surprising that he was once quoted saying, “from the time I was a small boy, I heard my parents tell friends, ‘Johnny’s going to the Naval Academy.’ It wasn’t an aspiration. It was a fact.” This sounds like he was preordained to follow the footsteps of the men in his family, and for good reasons.

A Navy Rebel

When we talk about the military, it’s safe to assume that it goes with the words discipline, decorum, and order. We don’t hear many stories about them being otherwise and for obvious reasons, but not in the case of John McCain.

In an article by Greg Daugherty released on History’s website, John McCain was described as “a decorated, if, at times reckless, fighter pilot who conducted nearly two dozen bombing runs in Vietnam before being shot down, captured, and tortured.” His rebel attitude came to light during his stay at Episcopal High School.

His rebellious, non-conformist personality, peppered with occasional brawls and unpermitted off-campus excursions, led him to collect enough demerits to be some sort of a class legend, but not too much to have the school expel him.

“A fight not joined is a fight not enjoyed,” he declared in his 2018 memoir The Restless Wave. In a commencement speech to the graduating class of 1993, he admitted that he graduated fifth from the bottom of his class.

“My four years here were not notable for individual academic achievement but, rather, for the impressive catalog of demerits which I managed to accumulate.”