President Trump has signed into law a bill that paves the way for Marine Gunny John Canley to receive the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions at the battle of Hue City during the Vietnam War.
Then-Gunny Canley originally was awarded the Navy Cross while serving as a company commander for the 1st Marine Regiment at the outset of the infamous Tet Offensive in 1968.
Canley’s “commanding officer was gravely wounded, so then-Gunnery Sergeant Canley took immediate command of his company, directing several counter attacks over many days, advancing the war strategically, and saving many American lives,” reads a press release.
In 2014, John Ligato, a private first class who served under the gunny, had approached California Congresswoman Julia Brownley to recommend Canley’s award be upgraded to the Medal of Honor.
After years of review by the Defense Department and the Corps, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis sent a letter to the congresswoman: “After giving the nomination careful consideration, I agree that then-Gunnery Sergeant Canley’s actions merit award of the Medal of Honor.”
By law, however, the Medal of Honor must be awarded “within five years after the date of the act or service justifying the award,” Mattis noted.
So Brownley worked with House leadership to pass a bill waiving the time restriction. The bill passed the House on December 21, 2017, and the Senate on January 16.
On January 29, President Trump signed H.R. 4641, 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 statement.
Canley “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. It is my great honor that he will be attending the State of the Union with me tomorrow ― 50 years to the day of the start of the Tet Offensive, where his bravery and courage saved many lives.
“I strongly urge the President to heed Defense Secretary Mattis’ recommendation that this award be bestowed to honor Sergeant Major Canley’s dedication to our nation and his fellow man.”
Canley served 28 years in the Corps, retiring as a sergeant major. His awards also include two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart.
“This honor is for all of the Marines with whom I served,” Canley said in the press release. “They are an inspiration to me to this day.”
Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.