By Brandon Martin
At the very moment a flag was flown over the U.S. Capitol in his honor on July 4, Martinsville native John Lee McCain stood proud in recognition of his service to the country as a member of the Greatest Generation.
McCain, 93, served in the Army Signal Corps as a lineman. This required him to run supplies and communication lines which would eventually lead to the Allied Forces victory in World War II.
“It means a lot,” McCain said after he was presented a temporary stand-in flag by Mayor Kathy Lawson and City Council Member Danny Turner. “I never thought I’d live this long. I’ve been blessed.”
The flag presentation came moments after Turner read a proclamation on behalf of Ninth District U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-Salem.
“It is my honor to recognize you today for your service to the United States of America during World War II,” the proclamation read. “Your honorable service as a lineman in the Army with the 258th Signal Company deserves recognition and thanks from the citizens you served. Serving in the Army during World War II, and transporting supplies and troops into the European Theatre, in Germany in particular, was no small feat. I know the City of Martinsville is proud to have you as part of its community and I am proud to serve as your representative in Congress.”
McCain is one of the only remaining Greatest Generation veterans left at the American Legion Homer Dillard Post 78 in Martinsville. His recognition was the hallmark of the gathering to celebrate the country’s independence.
In opening remarks for the ceremony that was held adjacent to the Uptown Farmers Market, Lawson said “We are here today to celebrate the anniversary of the birth of the United States. Liberty does not consist of words. It is only meaningful when we can take time out of our claims of our own conditions and our own lives.
“We are thankful that we have the freedom of opportunity and we are proud Americans. Thank you Mr. McCain for your service and for the military, past and present, we thank you and we honor you,” she said.
Retired Lt. Col. W.C. Fowlkes discussed two of the country’s Founding Fathers — John Adams and Thomas Jefferson.
“They were both so heavily involved with the formation of the country, and when you get two great people like that who work so closely together, there’s always a little bit of irritation,” Fowlkes said. “It’s an irritation from greatness.”
He also discussed how the rivalry between the second and third presidents shaped the country following George Washington’s decision to step down from the presidency.
“Sometimes it just takes a little time for people like this to get over their differences,” he said. “Ironically on July 4, 1826, Thomas Jefferson was deathly ill. His last words were ‘Is it the Fourth?’ Well John Adams, not realizing the activities that had been going on, his dying words were “Thomas Jefferson survives,’” Fowlkes said.
Martinsville Sheriff Steve Draper and local business owner Tim Martin distributed gift bags that contained miniature flags, a lapel pin, a Martinsville-themed facemask, and a coupon for a free hotdog at Market Square. In addition, festively decorated cupcakes were provided, individually packaged by Brenda’s Catering.
Bishop Denzell Kellam of the Spirit of Christ Worship Center, in Martinsville, led the benediction and the Honor Guard presented colors during “The Star-Spangled Banner.”