Before they were famous, many truly influential men and women started by serving their country in the US military or grew up in military families.

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Senior U.S. Senator, 2008 Republican Presidential Candidate

John Sidney McCain III is the senior United States Senator from Arizona. He was the Republican nominee for president in the 2008 United States election.

And John McCain is perhaps our country's most famous GI kid, military veteran, and military hero of his day.

John McCain was born in 1936 at Coco Solo Naval Air Station in the Panama Canal Zone, Panama, to naval officer John S. McCain, Jr. and Roberta (Wright) McCain. At that time, the Panama Canal was under U.S. control.

McCain soon followed his father and grandfather, both four-star admirals, into the United States Navy, graduating from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1958. He became a naval aviator, flying ground-attack aircraft from aircraft carriers. During the Vietnam War, he nearly lost his life in the 1967 USS Forrestal fire. In October 1967, while on a bombing mission over Hanoi, he was shot down, badly injured, and captured by the North Vietnamese. He was a prisoner of war until 1973. McCain experienced episodes of torture, and refused an out-of-sequence early repatriation offer.

McCain retired from the Navy as a captain in 1981, moved to Arizona, and entered politics. In 1982, McCain was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives from Arizona's 1st congressional district. After serving two terms, he was elected to the U.S. Senate from Arizona in 1986. He was re-elected in 1992, 1998, and 2004.

While generally adhering to conservative principles, McCain has a strong reputation as a political maverick, defying Republican positions on several issues. He made campaign finance reform one of his signature concerns, which led to the passing of the McCain-Feingold Act in 2002.

McCain is also known for his work towards restoring diplomatic relations with Vietnam in the 1990s, and for his belief that the war in Iraq should be fought to a successful conclusion. McCain has chaired the Senate Commerce Committee, has opposed unnecessary spending, and played a key role in alleviating a crisis over judicial nominations.

McCain was a candidate in the 2000 presidential election, but was defeated by George W. Bush for the Republican nomination. In March 2008, McCain became the Republican candidate for the Presidential election of 2008 and was defeated by Barack Obama. Still, John McCain remains a well-respected political voice in America today.

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