President Tommy Remengesau, Jr. will order the raising of Palau’s national flag at half-staff to honor the passing of United States Senator John McCain on his funeral on Sunday.

Senator McCain, who died on August 25 at age 81 while battling brain cancer, was among the few individuals who was bestowed by Palau the title of “Honorary Citizen” for his “generous efforts towards issues that mutually benefit the Republic of Palau”, as cited in a house joint resolution that was adopted on December 24, 2013.

The honorary citizenship is a status rarely given by the Palau government to foreigners. Among those who were given by Palau the title were Former Texas Governor Rick Perry, Former Ambassador Stuart Beck, Prince Albert of Monaco, and Dr. William Viteralei, among others. The recent honorary citizenship was awarded by Palau this year to Nippon Foundation Chairman Yohei Sasakawa.

President Remengesau himself wrote a letter dated August 26 to the late Senator’s wife, Cindy Lou Henley McCain to express his condolence to the bereaved.

McCain’s connection to Palau is said to be personal as his grandfather, John S. McCain Sr., a four-star Admiral in the US Navy played an important role in the liberation of Palau from Japanese occupational forces.

McCain fought for Palau to be funded by the United States under the National Defense Authorization Act.

“John’s ties to Palau were more than those of friendship or politics, and we will forever appreciate him.  He fought for many things throughout his life, and we were very proud to know he fought for us.  His honorary Palauan citizenship was not extended lightly – we considered John a member of the family. We were grateful that he felt at home here, and honored each time he came to visit. He is greatly missed already,” Remengesau said in the letter.

Remengesau also said that McCain’s care for the Palauan people and his support for the country’s preservation of culture and identity, “remains the very foundation of the relationship between Palau and the United States of America.”

McCain will lie in state in the Arizona Capitol on Wednesday and at the US Capitol Rotunda on Friday before his burial at a private service at the U.S. Naval Academy Cemetery in Annapolis, Maryland on Sunday.

Aside from being a senator, McCain was considered a war hero and was a twice presidential contender. He lost the US Republican presidential nomination to George W. Bush in 2000 and lost the presidency against Barack Obama in 2008.

Senator McCain had earned the nickname “The Maverick” for being bold in standing up for what he believed in even if it meant disagreeing with the fellow members of his party. (Rhealyn C. Pojas)