WASHINGTON – Growing up, Tucson native Joshua Carrigg learned about Arizona Sen. John McCain when his family talked about McCain’s service to the country as a politician and veteran.
So it was a “humbling” experience when Carrigg, now Army 1st Sgt. Carrigg, served as non-commissioned officer in charge of the military detail that received McCain’s casket when it arrived Thursday night at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.
He oversaw an eight-man unit, with representatives from every branch of the military, that took the flag-draped casket from Air Force Two and carried it a short distance to the hearse that took McCain to the Capitol, where he laid in state Friday.
The unit rehearsed for a day to prepare for the solemn job – Carrigg called it the “dignified transfer of remains” – which was over in minutes. But being even a small part of McCain’s memorial services was “a great experience,” he said.
Carrigg said he regularly talked about McCain and the sacrifices he made for the country, whether it was in school or around the dinner table. But regardless of who was in the conversation, Carrigg said McCain always was discussed with honor and dignity – no one ever had a bad word to say about him.
“I think he embodied the integrity, personal courage, the willingness to continue on and fight and just to be a continuous voice for the people,” Carrigg said in an interview Friday morning outside the Capitol. “As a soldier, we defend the Constitution … I think he embodied every part of that.”
The biggest lesson Americans can learn from McCain, he said, is simply to love one another.
“Be bipartisan,” Carrigg said. “Come across the table and kind of shake the other person’s hand. I think he did that well, and I think that’s something we can take away, especially in today’s environment.”
Carrigg never met McCain while Carrigg lived in Arizona, but he met the senator a few times in Washington. The six-term senator always was friendly and respectful, he said.
The last meeting came after the senator’s diagnosis with the brain cancer that eventually claimed his life. But Carrigg said McCain, who was in a wheelchair at the time, was in good spirits as he shook Carrigg’s hand.
“The last thing he said to me was right there in the Capitol,” Carrigg recalled. “He said, ‘Thank you for your service.'”
– Cronkite News video by Daniel Perle