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C.A. "Mack" McKinney

C.A."Mack" McKinneyC.A. "Mack" McKinney, veteran of three wars and distinguished military legislative advocate for over 30 years died November 15, 2005. He was 80 years old. In 1942, McKinney enlisted with the Marine Corps at age seventeen to join America's fight against tyranny and oppression, and shipped off to war. He served honorably and tirelessly for over 29 years and participated in the invasion of Okinawa during World War II, the Korean conflict, and the Tet Offensive during the Vietnam War before retiring as a Sergeant Major of Marines in 1971. McKinney is the recipient of 16 medals and commendations to include the Combat Action Ribbon. McKinney's service to this country did not end with his retirement, however. Over the next 34 years he lent his time and efforts to improving the recruiting, retention and readiness of the Armed Forces by petitioning Congress for military compensation and benefits packages commensurate with the "extraordinary demands and sacrifices associated with military service." McKinney devoted his talents to a number of organizations dedicated to bettering the lives of America's fighting forces, as well as their families. At the time of his death he was legislative counsel for the Fleet Reserve Association (FRA), headquartered in Alexandria, Va. He began his long public-service career with the Marine Corps League (MCL) and the Non- Commissioned Officers Association (NCOA). He played a key role in these organizations and was credited with helping stem the losses of highly-skilled mid-career military personnel by convincing leaders of the Senate and House Armed Services Committees to authorize two consecutive double-digit pay raises during the late 1970s. He was awarded the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished Public Service in 2004 and the Award citation reads in part:

Mr. McKinney played a decisive role in winning enactment of virtually every significant legislative initiative affecting compensation and benefits for active, Reserve and Guard, and retired service members…

Recognizing that there is strength in numbers, McKinney became a driving force behind the creation of The Military Coalition (TMC) in 1985, and the original 12 co-founding organizations stopped legislation that would have zeroed out retired pay cost-of-living adjustments for a seven-year period. He served as TMC co-chairman, coordinator and administrator – having been reelected as the later on November 3, 2005. He also mentored numerous TMC organization representatives, imparting them with his vast knowledge of military benefits and the legislative process. Today TMC is comprised of 36 military and veterans organizations and represents more than 5.5 million active duty, National Guard, Reserve, retirees and veterans of the uniformed services as well as their families and survivors.

In 1987 McKinney was appointed a member of the Veterans Administration Committee on Cemeteries and Memorials, a position he held until 1993. NCOA recognized his accomplishments by establishing an award in his name – the C.A. "Mack" McKinney Award – presented annually to current or former uniformed service members who exemplify professionalism, dedication, and service to the country. He was also the first ever recipient of the Marine Corps League's Gunnery Sergeant John Basilone Award for Commitment, and was honored by the U.S. Coast Guard with the Meritorious Public Service Award "for providing consistent and exceptional support to the Coast Guard."

McKinney was a member of numerous professional organizations and held leadership roles in many of them. He was a founding member and President Emeritus of the Exchange Club of Capitol Hill and helped found the Gang of 30 for the purpose of fostering good fellowship and staying abreast of Corps’ activities for active duty and retired Marines. He was a lifetime member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Disabled American Veterans, First and Third Marine Divisions Associations, Marine Corps Aviation Association, Congressional Marines, Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation, Marine Corps Heritage Foundation, the Marine Corps Association and the Fleet Reserve Association. He was also a charter member of and second president elected to head the Combined National Veterans Association as well as a charter member of the Combined National Veterans Associations of America.

Above and beyond his enviable work ethic, McKinney's most memorable quality was his impressive knowledge of legislative issues affecting the service member. McKinney could speak to the issues passionately and convincingly, whether it was one-on-one, or to an entire room. He had a way of speaking that drew attention to his words, and his presence commanded attention. Well known at military retiree and transition seminars, McKinney constantly implored service members to stay abreast of the issues that affected their quality-of-life, remarking often that "what Congress gives, Congress can take away."