Just Before He Died, Sen. McCain Wrote A Letter To A Recent Grad

The graduate had long been an admirer of McCain's.

As one of his final acts in office, the late Sen. John McCain penned a touching congratulatory letter to a recent service academy graduate. In spite of his failing health, the former Arizona senator wrote the heartfelt note to Navy ensign Sam Bongiorno on August 20, only five days before he passed away following a battle with brain cancer. 

"This is a momentous achievement of which and your family should be proud," McCain wrote in the letter to Bongiorno, who completed his stint at the Merchant Marine Academy in June. 

The note went on to read, "I commend you for your decision to serve our nation. It is young people like you who make the future of this nation brighter and stronger."

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McCain, a 1958 graduate of the Naval Academy himself, often reached out to young service members and recent graduates from around the country. Despite that, Bongiorno told CNN he never expected to hear from McCain "due to his declining health."

The letter — which was postmarked August 25, the same day that McCain died — came as a moving but bittersweet surprise for Bongiorno, who has long admired the late senator's extensive list of achievements in the navy, per CNN. McCain had a lengthy career as a naval aviator and survived plane crashes and imprisonment before eventually retiring as a captain in 1981. He entered the political arena in Washington soon after, serving as a Navy Senate Liaison before becoming a member of the House and later the Senate. 

Now, Bongiorno says he hopes to follow in the war veteran's footsteps by becoming a military pilot as well. He is currently preparing for flight school at Luke Air Force Base in McCain's adopted home state of Arizona.

"It's been my dream to fly for the military for as long as I can remember," Bongiorno told CNN. "I wanted to go to a service academy since I was ten years old."

Cover image via Krista Kennell / Shutterstock.com

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