RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - As the nation remembers the late Senator John McCain, a war veteran who lives right here in Richmond is remembering the time he spent with McCain as a Prisoner of War.
Paul Galanti says he and McCain became close friends under the toughest of circumstances.
Six years as a Prisoner of War in Vietnam. It's a nightmare retired navy commander Paul Galanti says few can relate to.
"I was shot down on June of '66 on my 97th combat mission," said Galanti. "You just can't understand what it's like, 24/7, to be sitting in a five by seven cell."
It was in that cell that Galanti and the other POWs would form an unbreakable bond.
"We got through it just being that voice on the other side of the wall just tapping notes back and forth," said Galanti.
One of those POWs was John McCain. Galanti admits that as a POW he never saw John face-to-face, but it was after their release from years of captivity overseas that they grew closer as time went on.
"He was the MC for all of our reunions and our get-togethers. He was one of the funniest human being I've ever known," said Galanti. "I just got to know him because we had gone through the same experiences."
Galanti said McCain's last stint in the navy was as a liaison to Senate, where he developed his love for politics.
"Once he got in - he just had a natural affinity for people. You just saw it over and over and over again," said Galanti.
McCain's passion for serving others rubbed off on Galanti so much that he would volunteer on the McCain's behalf, as the late senator made his run through the government including his bids for president in 2004 and 2008.
"I knew him and I liked the way he operated, so I helped him," said Galanti. "I'm not sure how much it helped, but he never lost an election we were doing except for the presidency."
Even in McCain's final months, the two stayed close, So close that Galanti was invited by McCain's family to attend the private ceremony at the naval academy in the senator's honor.
"They know how close John and I were," said Galanti. "I just think he's one of the greatest politicians of our lifetime. He knew he was going to die and he went out with as much grace and as any human being I've ever known."
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