Maj. Floyd “Mac” McCray went from an ordinary farm boy in Kentucky to a decorated veteran of three wars in the 20th century, and his contributions to community and country along the way will be recognized Saturday as he celebrates his 95th birthday.
McCray said his secret to a long life is keeping a positive outlook, saying that he doesn’t want to be around people who have negative thoughts or attitudes.
McCray was born in 1923 at what he called “Johnson’s Holler” near Irvine, Ky., and at the age of 17, he was inspired to join the military after hearing about the events of Pearl Harbor from a neighbor.
“We didn’t have a radio or TV in those days,” he said. “Somebody came up the holler and said the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor and I asked him where in the hell Pearl Harbor was.”
He said he “came out of the holler and into civilization” and enlisted in the U.S. Army, where he was later sent overseas to “take on Hitler and all of his hoodlums.”
In Dec. 1944, McCray received a field commission from staff sergeant to second lieutenant during the Battle of the Bulge, which he remembered as occurring during the coldest winter in German history.
“We lost 17,000 men in that battle and on the 16th of December they hit us in the bulge,” he recalled. “They drove us back 50 miles and that’s where it got the name of the bulge, because the battle line had a bulge in it of some 50 miles.”
Like many combat veterans, he doesn’t go into much detail regarding his time in World War II or the Korean War, saying that when he went into the Army, he was just a farm boy from Kentucky, and as a soldier, he was trained in how to kill the enemy.
He was promoted to the rank of major during the Korean War, and afterward was sent to Japan to continue with post-war restoration and reconstruction.
During the Cold War, he was stationed on the border of Czechoslovakia and the Soviet Union, and prior to retirement in 1983, he returned stateside to instruct soldiers in combat survival skills.
McCray said one of his proudest moments was helping plan the Highland County Veterans Memorial, which is located behind the Highland County Courthouse in Hillsboro. Currently, the names of 1,603 veterans are represented there.
Mechell Frost, the executive director of the Highland County Senior Citizens Center, told The Times-Gazette that McCray will be honored at an open house from 1-4 p.m. Saturday.
“Mac is one of my favorite people,” Frost said. “I love him and Judy both so much, all the things that he’s done. He’s lived so much that life has to offer and he has contributed so much to both his country and our community.”
In a news release, McCray’s family requested no gifts at the Saturday afternoon get-together, which will be held at the senior citizens center on Muntz Street in Hillsboro. The family extends an invitation to everyone to “just stop in and wish him well.”
Reach Tim Colliver at 937-402-2571.