Lance Cpl. Adam McCann settles for nothing but the best, and by the time was a teenager, his goal was to serve his country in the armed forces.
Today, that dedication to America has landed him in the book “Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors” by President George W. Bush.
It all started on April 19, 2004, when McCann — who grew up in Amherst, graduated from Firelands High School, and now lives in Oberlin — enlisted as a machine gunner in the Marine Corps.
While on tour in Iraq a year later, his unit were attacked by insurgents while searching a row of houses for weapon caches. McCann was injured when shrapnel from mortar explosions hit his neck and legs, and his service was cut short.
Doctors told him that he would never walk again, but after numerous surgeries, the Purple Heart recipient is an avid bike rider.
McCann was looking for low-impact ways to stay in shape and took up cycling to rehabilitate his injuries. He found the fluid motion of mountain biking did not further damage his ligaments or tendons that were wounded in combat.
Progressing from recreational rider to a racer, he was invited in 2015 to attend the Warrior 100K and ride alongside the former president.
The annual event is hosted at Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Texas. A part of the Bush Institute’s Military Service Initiative, it spotlights the role of sport rehabilitation for post-9/11 veterans and honors their bravery and sacrifice.
McCann said he wasn’t star-struck upon meeting the 43rd president, but felt it was an honor and privilege to meet the commander-in-chief under whom he had served.
“He was extremely popular within the military community,” he said. “To actually meet him was pretty incredible.”
After volunteering at other Warrior rides, McCann seemed to make an impression on the retired politician. Then he learned Bush painted images of veterans he had met for his book.
“It took me a a minute to register what was happening,” he said, remembering an email he received asking whether the president could paint his portrait. “How could I not say yes?”
The New York Times best-seller was published in early spring. The painting is on display at the George W. Bush Presidential Center in University Park, Texas.
“The book is his way of thanking us,” McCann said. “He had to make some extremely difficult decisions when he sent us to war during 9/11. He saw how we were changed — traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder — and this is his way of giving back and honoring us for our sacrifice.”
McCann feels his purpose in life was to serve his country. And though he was injured, he doesn’t feel like a hero.
“I don’t like when people call me a hero. My heroes are the ones that paid the ultimate sacrifice and didn’t make it home,” he said.
In October, he will travel to Texas to see his portrait for the first time in person.
Laurie Hamame can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @HamameNews on Twitter