I attended the United States Naval Academy for a brief time: I was inducted on July 6th, 1972, endured Plebe Summer (a sort of Basic Training for midshipmen), and the first semester of the academic year, then resigned at the beginning of second semester.
It's a complicated story: I am immensely proud of being accepted, enduring Plebe Summer, and being a part of the Class of '76, even though I decided not to continue, for complicated reasons best discussed in another post.
It was a trying time. Plebe Summer is designed to push you past limits you thought you had and recognize that you can perform at higher levels than you believed possible. Once you think you've got it under control, academic year arrives with the pressures of new upperclassmen, academics, and new responsibilities. I probably performed at the highest levels of effectiveness in my life, but received the poorest feedback (a 2.58 GPA, which wasn't half bad, in retrospect), and decided that "I wasn't good at it" and decided to bail and study Computer Science at WPI (which has worked out very nicely, as it turns out).
My time at USNA was probably the longest eight months of my life.
While I was there, we were very much aware of what was happening to previous USNA graduates, including Marines (the Marines are a branch of the Navy, and many Marine officers come from the academy), river boat ("Swift boat) forces, and, of course, Navy pilots.
Now let's compare:
John McCain was a graduate of the academy (in an era where the life of a mid was even more strenuous than mine), and had walked the same halls I had in Bancroft Hall. He had become a prisoner of war on October 26th, 1967, when I was in eighth grade. He was tortured or neglected for most of the time I was in high school. He had been a prisoner for almost five years before I started my "ordeal" at the academy, and he was released about a month after I left.
I believe that I have been tested, and succeeded to a degree, to an extent that few Americans have. I take a certain pride in that.
John McCain has been tested to an immeasurably greater degree, and passed those tests admirably.
I will follow him anywhere.
And I close my ears to those who will belittle him.