ARIZONA NEWS

As McCain begins treatment, fellow POW reminisces and expresses hope

Aug 5, 2017, 7:00 AM | Updated: Mar 1, 2018, 3:55 pm
John Fer, 79, reminisces about his time as a fellow prisoner of war with Sen. John McCain, R-Arizon...
John Fer, 79, reminisces about his time as a fellow prisoner of war with Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, during the Vietnam War. McCain was recently diagnosed with an aggressive brain cancer. (Photo by Ben Moffat/Cronkite News)
(Photo by Ben Moffat/Cronkite News)

WASHINGTON – When Sen. John McCain took to the Senate floor last week to lecture his colleagues about governing, it reminded John Fer of similar conversations he’d had with McCain – in a North Vietnamese prison.

Fer, a retired Air Force colonel who was a cellmate of McCain’s when both were held in Hao Lo prison, eagerly talked this week about the fighter he knew then, and his shock at hearing of McCain’s diagnosis with brain cancer.

“I was devastated,” Fer said, as he thumbed through old scrapbooks and talked about his hopes for his longtime friend. “I knew he had some problems with skin cancer and things like that in the past, but this, to me, was shocking.”

McCain was hospitalized two weeks ago for removal of a blood clot over his left eye, leading to the discovery of an aggressive brain tumor known as glioblastoma.

He was greeted with support and well-wishes from both sides of the aisle when he returned to the Senate last week to vote, but not before giving an emotional speech to his colleagues urging them to put aside partisanship and restore civility to the Senate.

“He’s got a lot of people praying for him,” Fer said. “He’s got a lot of people who are just devoted to what he’s doing, and devoted to him as an individual.”

After casting one of the deciding votes to block a repeal of Obamacare in the early hours of Friday morning, McCain returned to Phoenix where he was scheduled to begin “a standard post-surgical regimen of targeted radiation and chemotherapy,” according to a statement from his office.

That treatment was scheduled to begin Monday at the Mayo Clinic, but calls to the clinic and to McCain’s office seeking an update were not returned Tuesday.

Fer said that McCain’s speech on the Senate floor after returning to Washington reminded him of conversations they used to have in Vietnam, saying that he was talking about “a cause greater than your own self-interest.”

“That was vintage McCain,” Fer said. “We had a lot of conversations about politics, about military power, a lot about leadership.”

Fer, who was shot down in 1967, said that he met McCain a few years after his imprisonment in the infamous “Hanoi Hilton.”

“I met him, probably, in early 1971. That’s when we began the friendship,” said Fer, a Maryland retiree. “When I heard what the diagnosis was, it was like a ton of bricks hit me. It was horrible.”

Fer, “an eternal optimist,” said if anyone can overcome this cancer diagnosis it is Sen. McCain.

“Physical illness is, a great deal, dependent upon your mental outlook,” Fer said. “Your commitment with the knowledge that you can overcome this, and I really believe that John has committed himself to overcoming this disease.”

Fer said that he himself has committed to use “every day at my Mass to praying for John’s complete recovery.”

“I’m going to stick by it,” Fer said.

While he is in Arizona for treatment, McCain will still maintain a work schedule, his office said. He plans to return to the Washington following the August recess.

“The fact that he’s my friend, I’m going to devote a good portion of my prayer life to his recovery,” Fer said.

Lifetime Windows & Doors

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

(Attorney General Mark Brnovich's Office Photo)...
KTAR.com

Man sentenced to 6.5 years in prison for trafficking methamphetamine in Arizona

A man was sentenced to six and a half years in prison for his role in trafficking methamphetamine in Arizona, officials said. 
22 hours ago
(Phoenix Police Department Photo)...
KTAR.com

Weekend wrap-up: Here are the biggest Arizona stories from Sept. 23-25

Police find more fentanyl, Scottsdale tells HOAs they can't require overseeding and these Phoenix restaurants were highlighted this week.
22 hours ago
(AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez)...
KTAR.com

Honduras man charged with high-speed flight from Arizona immigration checkpoint

An 18-year-old man from Honduras was charged with high-speed flight from an immigration checkpoint last week, authorities said. 
22 hours ago
FILE - Family members and friends march seeking justice for the missing 43 Ayotzinapa students in M...
Associated Press

The role the Mexican Army had in the 2014 disappearance of 43 students

The Mexican army’s role in the disappearance of 43 college students and its links to organized crime are at the center of a case.
22 hours ago
Tania Estudillo Hernandez. (El Mirage Police Department Photo)...
KTAR.com

Woman in El Mirage arrested for managing human smuggling operations

A woman was arrested Friday evening for her role in a human smuggling operation based in El Mirage, authorities said.
22 hours ago
(Pixabay Photo)...
KTAR.com

Phoenix police shoot, kill man throwing rocks at patrol car

Phoenix police are investigating an officer-involved shooting after a man throwing rocks at a patrol car died Saturday evening.
22 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
SCHWARTZ LASER EYE CENTER

Key dates for Arizona sports fans to look forward to this fall

Fall brings new beginnings in different ways for Arizona’s professional sports teams like the Cardinals and Coyotes.
...
Mayo Clinic Orthopedics and Sports Medicine

Why your student-athlete’s physical should be conducted by a sports medicine specialist

Dr. Anastasi from Mayo Clinic Orthopedics and Sports Medicine in Tempe answers some of the most common questions.
(Courtesy Condor)...
Condor Airlines

Condor Airlines shows passion for destinations from Sky Harbor with new-look aircraft

Condor Airlines brings passion to each flight and connects people to their dream destinations throughout the world.
As McCain begins treatment, fellow POW reminisces and expresses hope