AP_730318054Then Lt. Cdr. John S. McCain III, a POW for over five years, waves to well wishers after arriving at Jacksonville Naval Air Station in Florida in this March 18, 1973AP PhotoSenator John McCain, a US Navy hero and one of the nation’s most influential Republicans, chose to forgo the medical treatment for advanced brain cancer, his family announced on August 24. It is the final chapter of a remarkable American life.

McCain would rise from an admiral’s son and Naval Academy midshipman to a decorated Navy captain and then a senator and Republican presidential nominee, who earned a reputation as a maverick who takes his own counsel.

As a 31-year-old Navy pilot, McCain’s plane was shot down on a bombing run, which began a searing five-year experience as a prisoner of war that would change the course of his life. He received a Silver Star for his heroism in captivity.

He has been a defense hawk and one of Congress’ most influential anti-torture voices — consistently opposing the kind of brutality he suffered in Vietnam.

This is a look at his decorated war service and the lasting impact he’s made on the armed services.