Thousands endure blazing Arizona heat to view Senator John McCain’s casket

Cindy McCain, wife of U.S. Senator John McCain, arrives with her sons Jack and Jimmy during a memorial service at the Arizona Capitol in Phoenix, Arizona, U.S., August 29, 2018. Ross D. Franklin/Pool via REUTERS

By David Schwartz

PHOENIX (Reuters) – Thousands of admirers of the late Senator John McCain stood in line for hours on Wednesday in the blazing Arizona sun and triple-digit heat for a chance to pay final respects to the war hero and two-time Republican presidential candidate.

The single-file procession through the Arizona Capitol rotunda, where McCain’s flag-draped coffin was lying in state, stretched across the statehouse plaza and widened to two or three abreast as it extended down adjacent streets.

More than a dozen canvas awnings were set up to provide shade for the throngs, with temperatures reaching 106 degrees Fahrenheit (41 degrees Celsius) at midday.

The public viewing of his casket, following a brief ceremony for family and dignitaries led by Governor Doug Ducey, came on the first of five days of memorial tributes planned for McCain, who died on Saturday from brain cancer. He was 81.

The onetime U.S. Navy fighter pilot endured 5-1/2 years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam before embarking on a celebrated political career. McCain stood out during the last two years as a key rival and critic of U.S. President Donald Trump, a fellow Republican whom McCain’s family has asked not to attend the funeral.

Members of the public listen to a private ceremony while waiting in line to pay their respects to U.S. Senator John McCain as he lies in state at the Arizona State Capitol in Phoenix, Arizona, U.S., August 29, 2018. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Members of the public listen to a private ceremony while waiting in line to pay their respects to U.S. Senator John McCain as he lies in state at the Arizona State Capitol in Phoenix, Arizona, U.S., August 29, 2018. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

Among several thousand waiting to glimpse McCain’s coffin at Arizona’s Capitol was James Fine, 54, a Dallas funeral director who drove over 1,000 miles (1,609 km) to Phoenix to bid farewell to a man he called a “statesman.”

“I get up every day and read the news, and then I see what John McCain has to say,” Fine told Reuters. “They don’t make heroes like him anymore.”

Earlier, the hearse bearing McCain’s coffin was greeted outside the statehouse by National Guard troops, military veterans, law enforcement officers and firefighters, all in dress uniform and standing at attention as they saluted.

Inside, close relatives and dozens of politicians, including several former Republican colleagues from Arizona’s congressional delegation, paid tribute to McCain’s life and legacy during a 30-minute ceremony.

“He fought like hell for the causes he believed in,” Ducey said. “He did it with humor and humanity, and without compromising the principles he held so dear.”

McCain’s wife, Cindy, widely seen as a possible candidate for appointment to succeed her husband, led a procession of 90 mourners past his casket. She paused briefly, stooping down to rest her cheek on the coffin, then patted it gently.

Their daughter Meghan McCain, co-host of the television talk show “The View,” sobbed openly.

McCain will lie in state again at the U.S. Capitol on Friday, followed by a funeral Saturday at Washington’s National Cathedral and a burial on Sunday at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland.

Ducey has said he will wait until after McCain’s burial to name an immediate successor.

(Additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles and Brian Snyder in Phoenix; writing by Steve Gorman; editing by Frances Kerry and Cynthia Osterman)

U.S. medic awarded Medal of Honor for Vietnam War heroism

U.S. President Donald Trump awards the Medal of Honor to James McCloughan, who served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War, during a ceremony at the White House in Washington, U.S. July 31, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

By Ian Simpson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A 71-year-old former Army medic from Michigan who saved wounded comrades under fire during the Vietnam War was given the highest U.S. military award by President Donald Trump in a White House ceremony on Monday.

James McCloughan, a retired high school teacher and coach from South Haven, received the Medal of Honor for his valor in saving the lives of 10 members of his platoon at the Battle of Nui Yon Hill in May 1969.

“Jim, I know I speak for every person here when I say that I am in awe of your actions and your bravery,” Trump said before fastening the medal with its star and blue ribbon around the white-haired veteran’s neck.

It was Trump’s first award of the Medal of Honor since taking office in January.

Ten men from McCloughan’s unit attended the medal ceremony, including five he saved, the president said.

McCloughan was 23 and serving as an Americal Division medic when he returned to the battlefield multiple times over 48 hours of fighting to retrieve the wounded soldiers, despite being hit himself with grenade shrapnel and gunfire, his citation said.

He refused to be evacuated to treat his wounds and held a strobe light in an open area at night for a resupply air drop, it said. He also destroyed a North Vietnamese Army position with a grenade.

The Medal of Honor generally must be awarded within five years of the actions that justify it. A former platoon leader began campaigning in 2009 for McCloughan to get the award, resulting in an act of Congress in December to waive the time limit.

President Barack Obama signed the act, making McCloughan eligible for the medal before he left office.

McCloughan left the service with a rank of specialist five and returned to Michigan. He taught psychology and sociology at South Haven High School and coached football, wrestling and baseball.

He is a member of the Michigan High School Coaches Hall of Fame. South Haven is about 180 miles (290 km) west of Detroit.

(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Steve Orlofsky)