More than a half century after his battlefield heroics during the Vietnam War, Ret. Marine 1st Sgt. John J. Lord will be awarded the Navy Cross during a Nov. 17 ceremony in Vancouver, Washington.
The Navy Cross, the nation’s second highest award for combat bravery, is an upgrade from the Bronze Star Lord originally was awarded in 1975.
On July 28, 1968, Lord was a sergeant serving with Company K, 3rd Battalion, 7th Marines in the Republic of Vietnam when he was jolted to push his company through a deadly ambush.
During the firefight, Lord’s company commander, platoon commander and senior enlisted leadership were wounded, leaving Lord to take the helm of his unit.
As machine gun and small arms fire rained down on the Marine platoon from a concealed North Vietnamese Army battalion, “Lord unhesitatingly maneuvered across the fire-swept terrain and skillfully deployed the platoon against the enemy,” the award citation reads.
On multiple occasions Lord exposed himself to enemy fire to rescue wounded comrades.
As Lord took over command of the entire company, he located one of the only functioning radios and began to direct air support against the enemy.
According to the award citation, Lord’s actions helped turn the tide of the battle.
Lord’s previous company commander, now retired Lt. Col. Michael Sweeney, helped spearhead an effort to award Lord for his heroic actions.
Even after Lord was awarded the Bronze Star in 1975, Sweeney continued to push to have Lord’s medal upgraded, according to Marine spokesman Maj. Roger Hollenbeck.
In 2015, Sweeney went to the 3/7 commander to endorse his request for the medal upgrade, Hollenbeck told Marine Corps Times.
The Navy Cross was recently approved the Secretary of the Navy and will be awarded to Lord on Nov. 17.
Six Marines who were with Lord during the battle will be present at the award ceremony.
Lord’s medal upgrade is another in a series of awards and upgrades for Marine Vietnam War veterans this year.
And the themes between the awards are all too familiar: a ferocious battle, sometimes an incapacitated command, and years spent by friends and family grinding through the Pentagon’s red tape.
In October, Ret. Sgt. Maj. John Canley was awarded the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions at infamous battle of Hue City during the Vietnam War.
Like Lord, Canley’s company commander was seriously wounded at the outset of the battle. Canley lead his men through the bloody street to street battle of Hue City, fighting off ambushes and rescuing his wounded comrades.
He originally was awarded the Navy Cross for the ordeal. But a Marine who served under the then-gunnery sergeant helped spearhead a nearly 13-year mission to upgrade Canley’s award.
In April, First Lt. Philip H. Sauer was posthumously awarded the Silver Star at a ceremony aboard Camp Pendleton for his actions during the Vietnam War.
Sauer fended off an ambush against his patrol on April 24, 1967, armed only with his .45-caliber pistol. He was killed during the firefight, but saved the lives of his men.
A retired Marine officer researched the history, befriended Sauer’s family and pushed for the medal.
And Lance Cpl. Raymond Kelley was recently awarded the Silver Star in May at a ceremony hosted by the National Museum of the Marine Corps.
Kelley was machine gun team leader and helped relieve a pinned down unit taking intense enemy fire on May 18, 1967.
Lord entered the Corps in 1965 at the age of 17, he also is the recipient of the Purple Heart.
Shawn Snow is the senior reporter for Marine Corps Times and a Marine Corps veteran.