Monday, January 08, 2007

RTD Shows Mac McGarvey Some Love

I remember the article Jim Webb wrote for Parade Magazine in the early 80s about his friend and former radioman, Mac McGarvey. It is quoted extensively in this Richmond Times-Dispatch story about his new role as Jim Webb's legislative assistant for Veterans' Affairs. What impressed me then, and continues to impress me, is the enormous affection and respect these two old friends have for each other. Blessed with natural ability, confidence, and a straightforward approach, Mac exudes loyalty without obsequiousness and seems to me the sort of person who would with affection, humor, and blunt talk let his old friend know if the fame and adulation are going to his head.
Webb enlists comrade for new Senate duties

Michael "Mac" McGarvey was 18 and a radioman for Jim Webb's Marine Corps rifle platoon in Vietnam when McGarvey's right arm was sliced off.

"The day the piece of shrapnel ripped his arm away just below the shoulder, a clean swipe like a hot knife that left the arm itself intact at his feet, I cried," Webb wrote later.

Fast-forward to the U.S. Capitol, Jan. 4, 2007. Webb, 60, raised his hand to take the oath as a senator from Virginia. McGarvey, 56, and close friend to the man he calls "Skipper" Webb, watched it on TV.

This time, it was the proud McGarvey's turn to get emotional.

"I had tears in my eyes," said McGarvey, a striking presence with a shaved head, mustache and goatee, suspenders and one empty white shirtsleeve.

McGarvey is in Washington now to serve as Webb's legislative assistant for veterans affairs ...

Last year, McGarvey was Webb's campaign driver. He operated a camouflaged campaign Jeep and later a motor home and traveled roughly 30,000 miles.

Before that, McGarvey enjoyed the unpaid role of what he calls "sort of an impresario" at Tootsie's Orchid Lounge in Nashville ...

Between 1985 and 2001, McGarvey worked in the Veterans Administration, which eventually became the Department of Veterans Affairs. With only a high school equivalency diploma, he rose to head a prosthetic and sensory aids service at Nashville's Veterans Affairs center. That unit handled about 35,000 patient disabilities per year.

In 1992, Webb went with a group to Vietnam on a humanitarian trip to deliver prosthetic aid to people who had lost limbs in the war.

"Mac was the guy I brought with me," Webb, a former Navy secretary, said last week.

"Particularly on the medical side, he really understands the VA system," Webb said. McGarvey is empathetic and well-respected among veterans' groups, he said.

And he ran "the No. 1 honky-tonk in Nashville, Tennessee," Webb added. "You have to know how to work with people if you're running Tootsie's."

At Webb's temporary office, McGarvey stretched out his left hand to greet a visitor warmly. He seized an opening in an interview and joked about being "short-handed," deflecting any unease. And he acknowledged that he wasn't thrilled at first with the idea of moving to Washington, but Webb won.

"He gave me that Jim Webb look, and said, 'Mac, I need you up here.' Jim's the closest friend I have ever had in my life. There's very little I wouldn't do for him," McGarvey said.

McGarvey had been planning to retire to his native southern Illinois and build a house. He's set that aside now to work for fellow veterans.

"It will allow me the opportunity to look at ways of possibly making life better for not only the veterans, but for VA employees," McGarvey said.

Congratulations to Mac McGarvey on his new position. I think we're going to see some real strides toward legislation benefitting veterans and their families.

1 comment:

xlpharmacy said...

INteresting post, I read some good reviews about this guy, he really was good on the radio.