(CNN) - Retired Col. George "Bud" Day was the "bravest man I ever knew," Sen. John McCain said Sunday of the war hero with whom he shared a cell as a prisoner in North Vietnam.
Day, a highly decorated serviceman who was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1976, died Saturday at age 88 in Florida, according to CNN affiliate WJHG-TV in Panama City.
"I owe my life to Bud, and much of what I know about character and patriotism," McCain, an Arizona Republican, said in a statement. "His fierce resistance and resolute leadership set the example for us in prison of how to return home with honor."
Forced to eject from his F-100 military aircraft above North Vietnam in 1967, Day - whose arm was broken in three places - was captured by North Vietnamese forces and interrogated.
He managed to escape 10 days later, trekking through the jungle toward South Vietnam. But after wandering for days and unsuccessfully attempting to signal U.S. aircraft, he was eventually recaptured by enemy forces.
The citation for his Medal of Honor notes Day offered "maximum resistance" to enemy interrogators during his 5 1/2 years in captivity, much of it inside the notorious "Hanoi Hilton."
"His personal bravery in the face of deadly enemy pressure was significant in saving the lives of fellow aviators who were still flying against the enemy," the citation read.
The injuries Day sustained to his arms never fully recovered. McCain, whose aircraft was shot down over Hanoi two months after Day's, suffered similar injuries during his time as a prisoner of war.
Day was a supporter and surrogate for McCain's 2000 and 2008 presidential bids, and in 2004 he appeared in television ads produced by Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, the group created to attack 2004 Democratic nominee John Kerry's military service record.
Born in Sioux City, Iowa, in 1925, Day was a Marine in the North Pacific during World War II and later was an Army Reservist before joining the Air Force in 1951.
A true hero and a role model for anyone. Thank you Sir, for your service. My thoughts go out to your loved ones.
a living legend has gone. RIP Bud Day, your always "Misty" to the men who flew with you.
After retiring he became a lawyer brought suit that led to the Supreme Court. It alleged the government reneged on its promise to provide free lifetime health care to hundreds of thousands of Korean and World War II veterans. Later
legal action was credited to him and prompted Congress to pass legislation in 2000 expanding the military's TRICARE health insurance program to include veterans over age 65 who had served at least 20 years or were medically retired. God speed Colonel. We will miss you in the FWB area.
I had the honor of meeting Col. Day a few years ago, and he was truly and American hero. The term "hero" gets tossed around a lot, but in this case it was definitely true. I remember someone asking him how he managed to continue to resist through years of torture, and his response was that he knew what was right and did it. Know what is right and do it is such a simple philosophy, and one that we should all strive for. The man was an example for so much that is right. He will be sorely missed.
We appreciate and thank him for his brave and patriotic service! Men who led were men back then - so unlike the teleprompter reader wuss in the White House today, who would surely have soiled something under similar circumstances.!
Thank you for your duty.
What patriotism? He is a sellout. Anything for the big spenders