By Philip Haldiman
The late Sen. John McCain will be honored at Rio Vista Community Park’s Peoria Veterans Memorial.
The area at the park featuring the Huey Helicopter will be renamed the Senator John McCain Vietnam Veterans Memorial Plaza.
The plaza will be commemorated on Veterans Day, Nov. 12.
Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities Director John Sefton said that in honor and appreciation of Mr. McCain’s extraordinary military service and dedication to public service as a former member of the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate, Peoria will officially rename the plaza.
A plaque will be placed at the plaza emblazoned with a quote from Mr. McCain’s presidential nomination speech in 2008.
The expenses for updating the plaza is estimated at $1,500 and will be managed within the current Parks, Recreation and Community Facilities Department allocated budget, Mr. Sefton said.
“With the passing of Sen. McCain, we have had strong interest and support in identifying Peoria’s best way to honor and forever respect the 60 years of work and contributions that Sen. McCain gave to our country, our state, and our community,” he said.
Mr. McCain, 81, died from the effects of brain cancer Aug. 25. Following a week of memorials, he was laid to rest in the Naval Academy cemetery in Annapolis, Maryland, Sept. 2.
The six-time Arizona senator was a Vietnam veteran who went on to serve as Arizona’s U.S Senator from January 1987 until his death. He previously served two terms in the U.S. House of Representatives and was the Republican nominee for President in 2008.
He graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1958 and was commissioned into the U.S. Navy. He became a naval aviator and flew ground-attack aircraft from aircraft carriers. While on a bombing mission during Operation Rolling Thunder in October 1967, he was shot down, seriously injured, captured by the North Vietnamese and held as prisoner of war until 1973.
During his captivity he endured episodes of torture, refused an out-of-sequence early release and as a result, sustained lifelong physical disabilities. He retired from the Navy as a captain in 1981 and moved to Arizona, where he entered politics. In 1982, he was elected to the United States House of Representatives, where he served two terms. He entered the U.S. Senate in 1987 and won reelection five times, the final time in 2016. Nicknamed the “Maverick,” he was diagnosed with brain cancer in 2017.
The McCain memorial in Peoria was presented as a concept to the Peoria Veterans Memorial Board, Oct. 4, and was recommended to city council, who approved the proposal Oct. 16.
“When I think of the Vietnam War, I think of John McCain. He is synonymous with that war and I think this is a tremendous tribute to the senator, and I definitely support this,” said Councilman Bill Patena.