FOND DU LAC – A war hero received a hero’s welcome after returning home to receive an honor he had never expected — a post office named after him.
An intimate crowd of around 100 friends, family, fellow veterans and well-wishers gathered Tuesday morning at the post office downtown to honor Lt. Col. James ‘Maggie’ Megellas and rename the building after him.
Megellas, who turned 99 in March, is a Fond du Lac native who currently lives in Texas. He served with the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division during World War II and is recognized as the most decorated officer in the division’s history.
Following speeches from representatives of the U.S. Postal Service, the military and the city, Megellas approached the podium as the crowd thundered applause.
“I’m very deeply indebted and grateful to all of you and the city of Fond du Lac where I was born because I grew up in this environment, and I’m a product of this small town, a small town that supports our veterans,” Megellas said.
After thanking his wife, family and numerous crowd members, Megellas struggled to find words to express his humility for receiving “an honor (he) never expected.”
Last July, U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) introduced the bill that would rename the post office after Megellas. After receiving unanimous support in the Senate last August, and passing Congress in March, the legislation was signed into law by President Barack Obama.
While Johnson was unable to make the dedication ceremony, he told the USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin in a phone interview that Megellas is a “true American hero.” Though grateful to be part of the legislative process of the renaming, Johnson said all of the “glory and honor really resides with (Megellas).”
The importance of naming offices after people like Megellas is it instills “in our young people the history of true heroes so they can live by this example for many years to come,” Johnson said.
Megellas served with distinction in many battles, including the Anzio landing, Operation March Garden and the Battle of the Bulge.
Despite all of the military honors he has received, Megellas said this occasion would stay with him forever.
“It’s something I will never forget, even in my waning years. I will never forget this moment,” Megellas said.