How do you say goodbye to an old friend you never knew? That is how I felt trying to grasp the importance of the United States of America losing an honorable, brave and valiant warrior who almost sacrificed his life in service to his country.

What U.S. Navy Capt. John Sidney McCain III believed in was pure and simple: He believed in his promise to defend the U.S. Constitution against all enemies. To the very end, he fulfilled that promise.

Capt. McCain’s final resting place — the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland — is fitting for a brave officer of the U.S. armed forces, a true American hero and statesman. He was buried next to his classmate and friend, Adm. Chuck Larson, who had reserved four lots for the two friends and their wives. Sarah Larson, Adm. Lawson’s widow, said, “Chuck has his wingman back now.” Capt. McCain’s two sons said the last goodbyes to a valiant father who made great sacrifices for the country he loved.

Capt. McCain — I say Captain because I feel the title was one he loved most because of the wonderful implications — graduated from the Naval Academy in 1958. He had naval service in his blood; both his father and grandfather served in the U.S. Navy and retired as four-star admirals.

He was even born on a military base, Coco Solo Naval Air Station in the Panama Canal Zone, on Aug. 19, 1936. After many postings and attending several schools, young McCain was selected to attend Annapolis. He had a checkered career at the academy, but established a reputation for leadership, even though those leadership abilities led him in the wrong direction at times.

After the academy, Capt. McCain was posted to the Naval Air Station at Pensacola, Florida, the cradle of naval aviation. After two and a half years he was awarded his wings and a reputation as a party animal.

Some of his compatriots said he was “cocky, occasionally cavalier and prone to testing limits.” He certainly tested limits in his career as a military fighter and as a member of Congress.

In 1967, Capt. McCain was assigned to the U.S. aircraft carrier Forrestal, which was engaging the North Vietnamese by continuous bombing of that country.

On Oct. 26 of that year, his A-4 Skyhawk attack aircraft was shot down by a North Vietnamese guided missile over the capitol city of Hanoi, and he was badly injured. He basically was refused any medical treatment by the North Vietnamese military after sustaining fractures of both arms and one leg. He was beaten on a regular basis.

The North Vietnamese discovered Capt. McCain was the son of an admiral in the U.S. Navy, and the beatings stopped but he was placed in solitary confinement.

During his captivity, his father was appointed commander of U.S. forces in Vietnam. The North Vietnamese offered to release Capt. McCain, but his father refused the offer unless they released every prisoner captured before him. The North Vietnamese started the torture all over again and it continued until his eventual release.

His captivity lasted five and a half years. Think about that. Five and a half years of deprivation, torture, untreated injuries, dysentery, malnutrition and solitary confinement.

Capt. McCain survived and continued his career of sacrifice for his country as a U.S. representative and senator for some 37 years.

I have tried to keep this commentary politically free, because to politicize any part would impugn Capt. McCain’s honor. But for anybody to disparage and minimize the sacrifices he made is to me an intentional sacrilege.

Donald Trump will never be my president until he apologizes to Capt. McCain and his family for the comments he made about McCain’s war record. A truly great man would surely right such a denigrating characterization. Capt. McCain, in every sense of the word, was an American hero.

God bless and Godspeed, Capt. John Sidney McCain III

John F. Floyd is a Gadsden native who graduated from Gadsden High School in 1954. He formerly was director of United Kingdom manufacturing, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., vice president of manufacturing and international operations, General Tire & Rubber Co., and director of manufacturing, Chrysler Corp. He can be reached at johnfloyd538@gmail.com. The opinions reflected are his own.