Sergeant 1st Class Blair Heusdens reported to Historic City News that General Craig R McKinley came to state headquarters in St Augustine today to celebrate his nearly 40-year military career; the last 14 of which, he spent serving in the nation’s capital.
Flanked by his friends, family and peers, McKinley received the Governor’s Medal of Merit from Florida Governor Rick Scott and the Florida Cross from Major General Emmett R Titshaw Jr., the Adjutant General of Florida.
“On behalf of all the men and women who make up our National Guard – about 460,000 nationally – I’m deeply honored to be back in my home state of Florida and honored to have the commander and chief of the Florida National Guard retire me today,” said McKinley.
Many in the Florida Air National Guard served and flew alongside McKinley; they remembered his contributions and legacy in the organization during a formal retreat ceremony on the parade field of the historic St Francis Barracks.
“This is a historic day for the Florida National Guard,” said Titshaw. “We are all honored and appreciate the fact that General McKinley chose to come back and retire where his heart is and where his roots are — back here, in Florida.”
During his celebrated career, McKinley rose through the ranks to prestigious achievements, but it was his 18 years in Florida that formed the foundation for his future successes.
As a Florida National Guardsman, McKinley made history at the beginning of this year when he became the first National Guardsman to serve as a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The elevation of the Chief of the National Guard bureau to a seat on the Joint Chiefs of Staff was a significant step in recognizing the importance of the National Guard to the safety and security of the nation.
“It is a great tribute to the Senate Armed Services Committee for realizing these last 12 years of men and women in the National Guard serving alongside our active components to give us an opportunity to be at the table where decisions are made,” said McKinley.
Like many who retire after a long and successful career, the day held mixed feelings for McKinley.
“It’s a tough day, it’s a bittersweet moment,” said McKinley. “But all of us know when we put on the uniform there will come a day when we have to say goodbye. Today’s that day for me and I couldn’t have been more proud to be here.”