Sam Bongiorno, a recent graduate from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, said he received a letter from the late Arizona Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainOvernight Defense: McCain honored in Capitol ceremony | Mattis extends border deployment | Trump to embark on four-country trip after midterms Congress gives McCain the highest honor Poll: More Dems approve of McCain than Republicans after his death MORENavy 001 White Rosherun Grey Barely 655206 Print Rose Men's Nike White a7f1qw0pq (R) days after his death, congratulating him on his graduation. 

The letter, which Bongiorno told CNN he received on Monday, was dated Aug. 20 and signed by the late senator just days before his family announced his decision to discontinue medical treatment for an aggressive form of brain cancer.

In the letter, which was likely a form letter from his office, McCain congratulated Bongiorno on graduating from the academy and commended him for his “decision to serve our nation.” 

“The dedication and determination you exhibited in completing your degree at the USMMA will serve you well as you begin your service as a Naval Aviator in the United States Navy.,” McCain wrote in the letter. “It is young people like you who make the future of this nation brighter and stronger.” 

Bongiorno said he was shocked to find the letter in his mailbox on Monday. 

“Getting the letter was definitely a shock,” he told CNN in an interview on Thursday. “I didn’t think that I would hear back from him after I received the nomination five years ago and it was definitely an honor.” 

Bongiorno said the gesture was also sad when considering that it was “one of the last letters [McCain would] ever send.”

“But it also serves to prove just how important he thought it was to pass the baton on to the next generation of Navy pilots,” the Navy ensign continued.

“I think coming from someone who served with such distinction and is regarded as a hero that its definitely a very high mark of praise,” he continued, adding that he considers the letter meaningful to himself personally and to his “fellow ensigns who commissioned with me in June and are also going to flight school.”

McCain, a war hero and giant of the Senate, has been honored on both sides of the aisle for his life and years of service since following his death on Saturday. 

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