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John McCain to get Liberty Medal in Philly

The senator, presidential candidate and fighter pilot will be honored for his life of service Monday.
John McCain (Getty Images)

U.S. Sen. John McCain will receive the Liberty Medal at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia on Monday.

He was announced as this year's recipient of the prestigious award on July 6 – just two weeks before he publicly announced that he had been diagnosed with brain cancer.

"It has been my greatest privilege in life to swear an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, beginning with my enlistment in the Navy and continuing through my service in the United States Senate," McCain said of the medal. "Each time I have raised my right hand, I do so with enormous weight of the people who elected me to serve."

McCain has been seen as a key Republican in the first year of Donald Trump's presidency. After his cancer diagnosis, he returned to the Senate floor twice to vote against Republican Obamacare replacements. He is best known for running for president against Barack Obama in 2008 and against George W. Bush in 2000, when he rode a campaign bus dubbed the "Straight Talk Express."

McCain will be receiving the medal from none other than Obama's former vice president, Joe Biden.

“In our over two decades serving together in the United States Senate, there were few others I could count on to be as honest, respectful and decent as John," Biden said in a statement. "His heroic sacrifice for his country and dedicated service to his constituents are unquestionable and unmatched."

The significance of having a Democrat and Republican onstage together was not lost on organizers of the event.

It "exemplifies the nonpartisan spirit of the National Constitution Center," said the Center's CEO and president, Jeffrey Rosen.

“In these polarized times, it’s more important than ever to unite public servants of different perspectives," he said.

McCain has served in the Senate since 1986.

He is most famed as a veteran for his time as a prisoner of war in Vietnam.

"On Oct. 26, 1967, McCain’s plane was shot down over Hanoi during a bombing mission," the Center said. "He was captured and spent years in a Vietnamese prisoner of war camp being tortured by his captors. Despite the torture he endured, McCain refused the opportunity for early release until all of his fellow soldiers were released. For his heroism, Sen. McCain has received 17 military awards and decorations, including the Silver Star, the Navy Commendation Medal and the Bronze Star."

Past Liberty Medal recipients included Malala Yousafzai, the Dalai Lama, U.S. Rep. John Lewis and Hillary Clinton.