Two veteran-led organizations are planning to honor late Arizona Senator John McCain by handing out T-shirts during President Donald Trump’s Fourth of July speech in Washington.
Rags of Honor and VoteVets are both participating in the distribution of the “Big Bad John” shirts, which feature the destroyer that was named for the late senator’s grandfather and father — before the younger McCain was added last July as a namesake by Navy Secretary Richard Spencer.
Some members of the organization are also planning on passing out shirts at the House and Senate buildings, The Hill reported.
“At this year’s national Fourth of July celebration we’ll be distributing T-shirts that feature the USS John S. McCain," the VoteVets website says.
"We may have had political battles against Senator McCain, but what has bound us together since 1776 — the belief in something larger than yourself — is always worth honoring on the Fourth.”
McCain has drawn the scorn of the president — in life and in death — following a long-running feud that dates back to Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, one highlighted by the president’s downplaying McCain as a Vietnam War hero.
“He’s a war hero because he was captured,” Trump said during the July 2015 interview. “I like people that weren’t captured.”
The Navy was reportedly asked by the White House last month to keep the destroyer bearing McCain’s name hidden during President Trump’s Memorial Day visit with about 800 sailors and Marines aboard the Japan-based amphibious assault ship Wasp, a vessel based in the same port as the McCain.
Because the destroyer remains out of service following a fatal August 2017 collision with an oil tanker that left 10 sailors dead, moving the ship was not an option. Instead, the Navy reportedly covered it with a tarp to conceal its name.
Navy officials disputed the report, telling Navy Times the tarp was placed on the ship prior to Trump’s visit but had been removed by the time the president arrived.
Speaking to the New York Times on the condition of anonymity, multiple sailors claimed a number of McCain personnel tried to attend the president’s speech, but were turned away for wearing caps bearing the ship’s name.
“I was not informed about anything having to do with the Navy Ship USS John S. McCain during my recent visit to Japan,” the president tweeted in response to reports.
“Nevertheless, @FLOTUS and I loved being with our great Military Men and Women - what a spectacular job they do!”
The president’s Fourth of July celebration speech, which will reportedly focus on honoring the military and veterans, will be part of large scale military demonstrations that will include flyovers and music.
Federal lawmakers, local officials and others have voiced concerns that Trump could alter the tone of what traditionally is a nonpartisan celebration of America’s founding by delivering an overtly political speech after he added himself to an event that typically has not included the president.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.