LULA — The Lula post office was formally renamed in honor of Pfc. Johnathon Millican during a ceremony Thursday morning.
Millican, who grew up in Lula, was killed by a grenade in Iraq in 2007. Also Thursday, his mother and two sisters were presented with his Silver Star by representatives of the U.S. Army.
U.S. Rep. Nathan Deal, R-Gainesville, who authored and introduced the legislation to rename the federal facility, spoke about the many people of Lula and Hall County who influenced Millican.
"What we see in the life of Johnathon Millican is a culmination of the efforts of all of you," Deal told the crowd of 200 people in Lula.
He said Millican probably never thought he would be regarded as a hero.
"But he did what he thought was expected of him at his time and his place in the history of this great country," Deal said.
Sarah Justus, who was Millican’s fifth-grade teacher at Lula Elementary, recalled a student who was eager to volunteer in the classroom, including a willingness to capture a runaway hamster.
She also spoke of Millican’s impact today.
"The most sacred symbols of our nation are sometimes disavowed," Justus said. "We can, by honoring his life, consecrate them once again. Our flag, our freedom, our nation under God, our willingness to protect the helpless and somehow return hope to the hopeless ... those are the values that Johnathon Millican died for."
Millican’s mother, Mary Lykins, wore a blue suit on which she pinned her son’s previous service medals. An Army sergeant pinned the Silver Star alongside the other recognitions. Around her neck, Lykins wore her son’s dog tags, which she kissed during the ceremony.
"It’s been an emotional day for me, but it makes me proud as a mother," she said.
A black drape was removed from the side of the building revealing new signage with Millican’s name.
"That was absolutely breathtaking," said Lykins, when asked her thoughts of the unveiling.
The Hall County Sheriff’s Office honor guard ended the ceremony with a 21-gun salute and the playing of "Taps."
Millican was killed Jan. 20, 2007, in an attack on a compound in Karbala, 50 miles south of Baghdad. During the terrorist attack, Millican dove on a grenade, saving the lives of other soldiers.
According to reports from the military, Millican’s compound was infiltrated by nine to 12 militants posing as an American security team traveling in black GMC Suburbans. The terrorists had American weapons, wore U.S. military combat fatigues and spoke English, according to senior military officials.
A friend of Millican’s told the Associated Press that the soldier was speaking with his wife on a Web cam when he was interrupted by the attack.
Four men were captured and taken about 25 miles east of the compound, where they eventually were shot dead.
Mitchell Millican, the slain soldier’s father, who lives in Alabama, is spearheading an effort to have his son awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. Millican has been getting signatures on a petition and has sought the support of Alabama’s delegation to congress.
Three of the four Iraq war Medal of Honor recipients fell on live grenades to save their fellow soldiers, according to the Congressional Medal of Honor Society.
Millican, 20, attended East Hall Middle and High schools and Lula Elementary. He graduated from Locust Fork High School in Alabama in 2005.
His mother and other family members still live in the Lula area.