Fifty years after the Battle of Hue, one of the bloodiest battles of the Vietnam War, a Marine is being recognized for his brave actions.
Retired Sgt. Maj. John Canley received a phone call from President Donald Trump earlier this month in his home in Oxnard, California. Trump told Canley that he was receiving the Medal of Honor for his work in early 1968.
The White House will be making an official announcement once the date for presenting the award is confirmed.
Canley has previously received the Navy Cross, two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart for his heroism.
In his Navy Cross citation, according to Stars and Stripes, Canley was a gunnery sergeant with 1st Battalion and 1st Marines who showed “extraordinary leadership and selflessness during the Battle of Hue.”
During the battle, his commander was seriously wounded, and Canley stepped up and helped lead his fellow Marines. During a week-long siege, Canley led his men to successfully neutralize enemy combatants and brought Marines who were injured to safety, while he himself had several shrapnel injuries.
“Gunnery Sergeant Canley lent words of encouragement to his men,” the citation reads. “And (he) exhorted them to greater efforts as they drove the enemy from its fortified emplacement.”
Canley’s fellow Marines, including John Ligato, were grateful for his actions and bravery. Ligato described him as “totally fearless” for what he did.
“You followed him because he was a true leader — something you need in life-and-death situations.”
Ligato and the other Marines Canley worked with knew that this man deserved the highest military honor, and they spent almost 15 years trying to push for the Canley’s award. They received more than 10 rejections.
“There were times I gave up,” Ligato told military.com. “But the irony is he’s one of the most deserved Medal of Honor recipients ever in the history of our country.”
In 2014, one Marine reached out to Representative Julia Brownley and asked for help to get the Department of Defense to review the recommendation to give Canley’s Navy Cross the upgrade.
“Sergeant Major Canley truly exemplifies the kind of courage and bravery for which this honor is awarded,” Brownley said in a written statement. “He is a true American hero and a shining example of the kind of gallantry and humility that makes our Armed Forces the best military in the world.”
Brownley received a response in 2017, which explained that although Canley has remarkable achievements, the Medal of Honor must be rewarded “within five years after the date of the act or service justifying the award”.
Brownley then wrote H.R. 4641, which gave the president permission to give Canley the award that he deserved. Trump signed it into law earlier this year.
Canley said he was humbled to be recognized for his actions, and he gave credit to all the Marines he served with during that battle.
“It’s more about them than me,” he told the Ventura County Star newspaper. “This is about the young Marines that sacrificed so much. I just happened to be their leader.”
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