McCain appeared with Col. Bud Day, a fellow Vietnam prisoner of war, and told reporters he was highlighting his military experience because of his pride in his service.
"Senator Bob Dole - who ran for president and I was part of his campaign - he was very proud of his service to the country. Jack Kennedy was very proud of his service," McCain said. "Those of us who served in uniform, in the military, are usually very proud of our service."
McCain was a 31-year-old Navy pilot when his plane was hit by a missile, and he ejected. He broke both arms and severely injured his right knee, and the wounds were exacerbated by torture during more than five years in prison.
McCain said he expected to hear from others who served with him.
"I think about my friendship. I'm pleased to be with my comrades. I'll have phone calls all day from the guys, the old guys I was with. They'll give me a lot of advice and counsel and everything," he said.
"I served in the company of heroes, and that's the great privilege of my life," he said.
Recalling the years he was tortured, McCain also condemned the use of questioning techniques that some call torture.
The issue has come up in Senate hearings on the nomination of Michael Mukasey as attorney general. The Bush administration says it does not countenance torture but won't say whether such techniques as "waterboarding" are prohibited in an executive order issued last summer.
"I find it beyond belief that anyone would countenance such torture," McCain said. "It was inaugurated by the Spanish Inquisition and it was used by Pol Pot and it's now being used to torture Buddhist monks.
"It's not the America that I know that would countenance such torture," he said. "That's not the nation that I fought for."
Waterboarding, designed to induce panic in a person being questioned simulates drowning. It may involve a prisoner being tied to a board, head slanted down, a wet towel placed on his face and water poured on the towel.
On another topic, a Fox News Channel request that he stop airing a TV ad that includes footage from a debate sponsored by the network and notes his years as a prisoner, McCain said he doesn't see what's at issue. He said the campaigns ofand had put clips from the debate on their campaign Web sites.
"I understand that there's some letters going back and forth. I'm not directly involved, but I understand that the other candidates put up on their Web sites also clips from the debate," he said. "And we're kind of curious that it should be our using a clip from the debate. We also think that the fairness rules probably indicate that it's OK for us to do that."