Veterans we lost in 2018 who touched our lives

December 27, 2018 - 8:30 am

The deaths of two veterans helped to unite a nation that was often divided along political lines in 2018.

The country paused to honor and remember the service of Sen. John McCain upon his death in August and former President George HW Bush in November.  

McCain, the son and grandson of Naval admirals, graduated from the United States Naval Academy and went on to serve as a pilot during the Vietnam War. His plane was shot down during a bombing mission in October of 1967, leaving him seriously injured and in the hands of the North Vietnamese.

Photo by Pete Marovich/MCT/Sipa USA

When they learned McCain’s father was a famous admiral, they tortured him. He was held as a prisoner of war until 1973.  When he returned to the United States, McCain became active in politics, serving first in the House of Representatives and later as a Senator from 1987 until he died as a result of brain cancer on Aug. 25.  A staunch supporter of the military and veterans, McCain was instrumental in getting legislation passed that supported both groups.  McCain was also the Republican nominee for president in 2008, but was defeated by Barack Obama.

RELATED: Sen. John McCain - Through the years

Bush was the youngest Naval pilot of his generation, enlisting in the service on his 18th birthday in the wake of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. He served on the USS San Jacinto, flying Grumman Avenger Bombers with the 3rd and 5th Fleets. He flew a total of 58 combat missions, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross and three Air Medals.

RELATED: Former President George H.W. Bush dies at age 94

His plane was hit by enemy fire while on a mission to take out a radio station in the Bonin Islands. Only Bush survived.

Photo courtesy of Department of Defense

Following his military service, Bush became active in politics, eventually going on to service as director of the CIA; ambassador; vice president and president. As president, he was commander-in-chief of the armed forces during Operation Just Cause in 1989 and Operation Desert Storm in 1991. He was 94 when he died Nov. 30.

Other notable veterans who passed away in 2018 include:

John Young, 87. The Naval pilot and astronaut who walked on the moon and later commanded the first space shuttle flight, died Jan. 5.

Stansfield A. Turner, 94. The Naval admiral who served as CIA director under President Jimmy Carter and is credited with overhauling the agency died Jan. 18.

World War II veteran Mort Walker, whose beloved character “Beetle Bailey” brought smiles to comics readers for decades, died Jan. 27 at 94.

Toys R Us founder and World War II vet Charles P. Lazarus was 94 when he died March 22.

U.S. Navy

R. Lee Ermey, 74, a tough-as-nails former Marine who went on to become a star in Hollywood hits like “Full Metal Jacket” died April 15.

Former Army Capt. Ernest Medina. 81, an important figure in the My Lai massacre during the Vietnam War, died May 18.

Naval pilot and Apollo 12 astronaut Alan Bean was the fourth man to walk on the moon. He later turned to painting as a way to tell the story of the lunar landings. He was 86 when he died May 26.

Air Force veteran Adrian Cronauer’s story of being a radio announcer in Vietnam was brought to the big screen in Robin Williams’ “Good Morning, Vietnam.” He was 79 when he died July 18.


Alene Duerk, 98, was the Navy’s first female admiral and a trailblazer as the sea-going service opened up more opportunities for women. She died July 21.

Stan Lee, 95, entered the U.S. Army Signal Corps in 1942 shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor. Lee began working as a lineman, responsible for telegraph pole and communications equipment repair before his writing skills were realized and he moved to the Training Film Division.

RELATED: Former U.S. Army Sgt. and Marvel Comics dynamo Stan Lee has passed away at age 95

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