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McCain chokes up on Senate floor recalling Bud Day

FILE - In this Feb. 18, 2010, file photo, retired Col. George "Bud" Day, left, laughs with Arizona Sen. John McCain at a Veterans Town Hall Meeting and endorsement news conference at the American Legion Post #1 Luke-Greenway in Phoenix. Day, a Medal of Honor recipient who spent 5½ years as a POW in Vietnam and was Arizona Sen. John McCain's cellmate, died Saturday, July 27, 2013, after a long illness. He was 88. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File) Retired Col. George "Bud" Day, left, laughs with Arizona Sen. John McCain at a Veterans Town Hall Meeting at American Legion Post #1 Luke-Greenway in Phoenix in 2010. Day died Saturday after a long illness. He was 88. (Ross D. Franklin/AP)

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) paid tribute Monday to Col. George "Bud" Day, one of the nation's most highly decorated military veterans, who died Saturday after a long illness. Day spent 5½ years as a POW in Vietnam and shared a prison cell for a time with McCain at the infamous "Hanoi Hilton."

McCain recalled in an emotional speech on the Senate floor Monday how Day and another POW, Norris Overly, had nursed the future senator back to health while imprisoned in 1967.

"Bud and Norris wouldn't let me die. They bathed me, fed me, nursed me, encouraged me and ordered me back to life," McCain said. "Norris did much of the work, but Bud did all he could considering that he recently had been near death. Shot, bombed, beaten savagely by his captors, and his arm broken in three places. He was a hard man to kill and he expected the same from his subordinates. They saved my life, a big debt to repay, obviously. But more than that, Bud showed me how to save my self-respect and honor, and that is a debt I can never repay."

McCain recalled how Day served as a frequent adviser and travel buddy on the campaign trail through the years.

"I'm going to miss him terribly. Even though Bud had reached advanced years, for some reason I could never imagine Bud yielding to anything — even, I thought, to the laws of nature," McCain said. "Tough old bird that he was, I always thought that he would outlive us all."

With that, the senator appeared to begin choking back tears: "He's gone now. To a heaven I expect he imagined would look like an Iowa cornfield in early winter filled with pheasants. I will miss Bud every day for the rest of my life. But I will see him again. I know I will. I'll hunt the field with him, and I look forward to it."

Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.

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