"My friends, I will never forget that man," McCain recounts during a town-hall meeting with voters, his voice choked with emotion. "I will never forget that moment. And I will never forget the fact that no matter where you are, no matter how difficult things are, there's always going to be someone of your faith and your belief and your devotion to your fellow man who will pick you up and help you out and bring you through."
It was, he said later, the most transcendent and uplifting experience of his imprisonment.
Faith and hate
Faith is a theme that runs through many of McCain's writings – and to him it means more than religion. In his first book, a family memoir called "Faith of My Fathers," McCain writes that his senior officers stressed "the three essential keys to resistance" during captivity – faith in God, faith in country, and faith in one's fellow prisoners. Of those three, the final one – keeping the faith in one another, the intense desire not to fail one's friends – was "our final defense," he writes. "This is the truth of war, of honor and courage, that my father and grandfather had passed on to me."
The warrior legacy of McCain's father and grandfather – both also named John Sidney McCain, both four-star Navy admirals – is ingrained in the senator's being. But it isn't until his fourth book, "Character Is Destiny," published in 2005, that he reveals another ingredient that he says was essential to his resistance as a POW: hatred.
"You come to hate your enemies, and not in the abstract because you believe they serve some hateful purpose, but in reality, and individually," he writes.