(Editor’s note: This article about Lincoln County native and Lincoln Academy graduate John Abbott first appeared in the Ridgecrest Daily Independent, of California, under the headline “McCarthy awards Abbott service medals.” It is reprinted here by permission.)
When U.S. House of Representatives Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy awarded Ridgecrest veteran John Abbott with a long list of service medals and awards, he also brought a message from an unexpected source. President Donald Trump reportedly sent his thanks to Abbott on behalf of the entire country.
McCarthy said he was about to step on the stage at Murray earlier in the day when he received a phone call from the president, who was calling from Air Force One on his way back from Billy Graham’s funeral.
McCarthy said he told Trump he was in Ridgecrest to dedicate a school and deliver medals to a veteran. Trump, he said, was moved to send his gratitude and congratulations.
“He wanted me to shake your hand and say thank you on behalf of a grateful nation,” McCarthy said. He shook Abbott’s hand while the capacity crowd cheered.
The presentation took place in front a room full of invited guests — most of them veterans — at the Historic USO building Friday, March 2. It was part of McCarthy’s day in Ridgecrest, which also included the ribbon-cutting at Murray Middle School.
Abbott received nine awards in all.
“The only one I question here is good conduct,” McCarthy joked.
Abbott’s rank is senior chief operations specialist, retired. He was born in Boothbay Harbor, Maine, grew up in the Nobleboro area, graduated from Lincoln Academy, and married his high school sweetheart, Norma Gammon.
Norma was in attendance at the event and McCarthy convinced her to spill the story of their first meeting. She was a waitress and “he hit on me,” she said. “He was a little bit inebriated.” She said she called him an “idiot” in her diary, but obviously revised her opinion later.
On a more serious note, Abbott spoke and thanked everyone for the honor.
“Thank you very, very much. I can’t appreciate enough you taking the time out of your calendar and doing this. It’s an incredible honor,” he said.
He also thanked his “amazing” local veterans support group, everyone present, and his “wonderful friends.”
“This completes my service time,” he said.
“You did an amazing job for our nation. I firmly believe how we treat our veterans says a lot about our character as a nation,” McCarthy said.
Kern County First District Supervisor Mick Gleason assisted McCarthy as the two pinned on a total of nine medals: the Navy Commendation Medal, Navy Achievement Medal, Meritorious Unit Commendation, Navy “E” Ribbon, Navy Good Conduct Medal with two Bronze Stars, Navy Expeditionary Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Southwest Asia Service Medal with one Bronze Star, and Sea Service Deployment Ribbon with four Bronze Stars.
“During the Cold War we did stuff, and after the stuff was done, they kind of said ‘thank you,’” said Abbott in response to Gleason’s question about the first medal.
“For all the stuff he can’t talk about,” McCarthy said with a laugh.
“You are going to look like a Russian general,” Gleason joked about all the medals.
“Now that you have all those medals, do you feel weighted down?” McCarthy said.
“I feel weighted down,” Abbott agreed.
Abbot spoke again about the benefits of veterans stress groups and said if anyone needs information on one, they could contact him.
“I have come out of my shell incredibly since being here in this wonderful city,” he said.
Abbott volunteers for the Historical Society of the Upper Mojave Desert and for the Ridgecrest Police Department as commander of the Police and Community Together volunteers. In 2015, he was recognized for volunteering more than 4,000 hours by the president of the United States and awarded the President’s Lifetime Achievement Award.