Washington (CNN) – Sen. John McCain paid tribute to his Vietnam cellmate on the Senate floor Monday, emotionally describing retired Col. George E. "Bud" Day as a fierce resistor who showed McCain "how to save my self-respect and my honor," he said. Day died Saturday at the age of 88.
In a statement Sunday commemorating Day, McCain called him the "bravest man I ever knew."
As a prisoner of war in North Vietnam's infamous "Hanoi Hilton," McCain shared a cell with Day and another service member, Major Norris Overly. After McCain, a Naval aviator, was shot down and imprisoned, the two men "wouldn't let me die," the Arizona Republican said on the Senate floor.
"They bathed me, fed me, nursed me, encouraged me and ordered me back to life."
For McCain, Day was a friend, a source of inspiration and his commanding officer, the highest ranking of the three men in their prison and thus the authority. From that authority, Day demanded of McCain a constant resistance against their jailors, singing the national anthem even when he had a rifle pointed at his face.
"Those who knew Bud after the war could see how tough he was," McCain said.
"But my God to have known him in prison confronting our enemies day in and day out, never ever yielding, defying men who had the power of life and death over us."
McCain showed the greatest emotion when he talked about seeing Day once more, in what he imagines would be Day's vision of heaven in an Iowa cornfield filled with pheasants. "I will see him again. I know I will," McCain said. "I'll hunt the field with him and I look forward to it."