Sen. John McCain approached the microphone not long after the Senate began its work for the week on Monday.
With a sheaf of papers in his hand, McCain recounted the inspiration he received from Air Force Col. George (Bud) Day when the men were cellmates in a North Vietnamese prisoner of war camp.
Listen to McCain's full speech on the Senate floor
Day died Sunday at his home in Florida at the age of 88. He was a Medal of Honor winner and one of the nation's most decorated servicemen since Gen. Douglas MacArthur. In total, Day earned more than 70 medals for his service in World War II, Korea and Vietnam.
Day received the Medal of Honor for escaping his captors for 10 days after the aircraft he piloted was shot down in North Vietnam. He was captured and imprisoned with McCain, where both were tortured before being freed in 1973.
After retirement, Day became an advocate for fellow veterans. He will be buried at Barancas National Cemetery in Pensacola, Fla.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.