Roughly 50 years after a battle in Vietnam, an El Dorado native is one step closer to receiving a Medal of Honor.
Marine veteran John Canley led Marines through the streets fighting in Hue over 50 years ago. The Battle of Hue took place during the North Vietnamese Tet Offensive from Jan. 31 to Feb. 6, 1968.
On Jan. 29, President Donald Trump signed a bill passed by Congress authorizing the president “to award the Medal of Honor to Gunnery Sergeant John L. Canley for acts of valor during the Vietnam War while serving in the Marine Corps,” according to a White House release.
Canley, an 80-year-old retired Vietnam veteran, carried several wounded marines while under heavy enemy fire and assumed command to maintain the unit’s organization and morale in the “most chaotic battle of the Vietnam War.”
Canley was wounded more than once during the fighting, but still continued pushing forward. He conducted several tours in Vietnam from 1965 to 1970 and his efforts saved the lives of many men, earning him the Navy Cross.
The president’s bill upgrades the Navy Cross award to the highest U.S. military decoration. The bill also waives a requirement that service members must receive the Medal of Honor within five years since the heroic event took place.
Canley, who spent 28 years in the service, left El Dorado at the age of 15 to join the Marines.
“(El Dorado) is where I went in the Marines from. It was about 21 days before I was 16,” Canley said. “I took my brother’s birth certificate. On my birth certificate it says J. L. My brother’s name was L. J. so I was able to switch it around and convince the recruiter to let me take the test.”
Canley attended the president’s State of the Union address in Washington on Jan. 30. He was the guest of honor for U.S. Rep. Julia Brownley, D-Calif.
“Sergeant Major Canley truly exemplifies the kind of courage and bravery for which this honor is awarded,” Brownley said in a press release. “His valorous actions and unwavering dedication to his fellow service members is the reason so many of the men who support his nomination are alive today to testify on his behalf.”
Brownley wrote the legislation that will allow Canley to receive the Medal of Honor. She introduced the bill after Defense Secretary James Mattis sent her a letter in December saying that he supported upgrading Canley’s Navy Cross to the Medal of Honor, a press release stated.
Canley, who now resides in Oxnard, California, said he will be physically receiving the Medal of Honor award sometime in the next three months.
“Being a leader is about taking care of your people,” Canley said in a news release. “If you do that, they will take your view, and you don’t have to worry about your mission, and it really doesn’t matter whether or not it’s military or civilian …if you’re in a leadership position, you should always remember that.”
Kaitlyn Rigdon can be reached at 870-862-6611 or email@example.com.