U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., received The American Legion’s Distinguished Public Service award for his commitment to the welfare of America’s veterans and their families. The award was presented to McCain by American Legion National Commander Charles E. Schmidt on Feb. 28 during the organization’s 57th annual Washington Conference.

“Thank you for this great honor,” said McCain, who is a member of American Legion Post 2 in Arizona and currently serves as chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, to Legion leadership gathered at the Washington Hilton in Washington, D.C. “It’s an honor to accept your national commander’s Distinguished Public Service Award.”

As he presented the award to McCain, Schmidt recalled his visit to Hoa Lo Prison in Vietnam last November where McCain was held as a POW. “It was dark and depressing. It was not a nice hotel like this,” Schmidt said. In his acceptance speech, McCain reflected upon his POW prison known as Hotel Hanoi, that “those who I love most and know best are those that I had the great honor to serving with in a hotel far away from here,” McCain said. “I am the person I am today, if there’s any small measure of success that I have achieved, it’s because of the comradeship and the love and struggle that we waged together. Friends, fellow POWs, we were proud to come home with honor, and I’m honored to be with you today.”

McCain also shared issues affecting veterans today that concern him, including PTSD and VA wait times.

“We have an obligation to identify, resource and make available effective forms of treatment to help eliminate veteran suicide. We must eliminate veteran suicide. We owe that to every one of our veterans,” McCain said.

In reference to improving veterans access to immediate care, McCain told the Legion delegation that “veterans shouldn’t have to wait on a waiting list for days, weeks, months. What I want our veterans to be able to do is when they need the specialized care that only the VA can provide, we should make sure they have that.
“Veterans need The American Legion today more than any time ever. We need you.”

The Distinguished Public Service award is given annually to an elected official who has established an outstanding record in support of principles advanced by The American Legion. In presenting the award to McCain, Schmidt recognized him for “boldly embracing The American Legion pillar of a strong national defense.”
With a current membership of 2.2 million wartime veterans, The American Legion, www.legion.org, was founded in 1919 on the four pillars of a strong national security, veterans affairs, Americanism, and youth programs. Legionnaires work for the betterment of their communities through more than 13,000 posts across the nation.