Washington, DC – Today, Congresswoman Julia Brownley (D-CA) welcomed the White House’s announcement that Sergeant Major (Ret.) John Canley of Oxnard will receive the prestigious Medal of Honor for his heroism during the Vietnam War. Brownley’s legislation making Canley eligible to receive the medal, which passed with overwhelming bipartisan support, was signed into law in January.
Sergeant Major Canley served as a Marine for 28 years, including service during the Vietnam War. His actions as Company Commander of Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, during the early days of the Tet Offensive in Hue City, Vietnam, saved the lives of many Marines and sailors. In 1968, during the Battle of Hue, his 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. More than a dozen eyewitness statements corroborate this account. For his extraordinary heroism, Canley received the Navy Cross, as well as two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart. In 2014, one of Sergeant Major Canley’s fellow servicemembers contacted Congresswoman Brownley’s office to request that she recommend that Canley’s medal be upgraded to the Medal of Honor – the highest military honor awarded by the U.S. government.
Brownley’s office submitted the documentation requesting that the Department of Defense review Sgt. Canley’s records, and in December 2017, after several years of review by the U.S. Marine Corps and the Department of Defense, Secretary of Defense Mattis sent Congresswoman Brownley a letter stating that he agreed that Canley’s actions merit award of the Medal of Honor. However, Secretary Mattis noted that Congress would need to pass legislation to waive the five-year time limit on awarding the Medal of Honor. Congresswoman Brownley authored legislation to waive the time limit to make Canley eligible to receive the medal. Her bill was signed into law in January. Today, the White House announced that Sgt. Canley would – at long last – receive the Medal of Honor that he earned during his notable service in Vietnam. It will officially be awarded on October 17.
“Sergeant Major Canley is a shining example of why our Armed Forces are the best military in the world, and his heroism and bravery showcases what being an American hero truly means,” said Congresswoman Brownley. “I am so happy that the White House has announced that he will receive the Medal of Honor for his gallantry during the Vietnam War. It was my great honor to have him attend the State of the Union with me this year, which fell on the 50-year anniversary of the start of the Tet Offensive, where his extraordinary actions saved so many lives. I look forward to Sergeant Major Canley finally receiving this much-deserved honor, and thank him for his unwavering dedication to our nation and his fellow servicemembers. This is truly an example of how bipartisanship is possible, and I hope we can continue to work in that manner going forward.”
“I am accepting this on behalf of all the Marines I had the honor of serving with in Vietnam and who continue to be an inspiration to me everyday,” said Sergeant Major Canley. “Their bravery and sacrifice is unparalleled. I also want to thank Congresswoman Brownley and her staff for their continued work to help make this happen.”
Photos of Sergeant Major Canley are available here.
What Sergeant Major Canley’s Fellow Servicemembers Say About His Bravery:
“The sheer cumulative effect of Gunny Canley’s actions and deeds over this continued period rank with the acts of America’s greatest heroes from the Revolutionary War to this present day,” said John Ligato. “This man is the epitome of A Marine Warrior.”
“I spent nine months in the St. Alban hospital, required numerous surgeries and am disabled, but, I would have died if [Canley] had not risked his life for mine,” said Pat Fraleigh. “This was not the first time I saw Gunny Canley act heroically. At Cen Thien he not only carried Marines to safety, but also exposed himself to enemy fire. … He was always leading and attacking the enemy and always standing up and encouraging us.”
“One man in front of our position was hit and we were being kept down from incoming fire. As the Lieutenant was calling in fire support, Gunny [Canley] directed fire on the enemy then at risk to himself he got up and ran to the injured man, picked him up, and carried him to safety, all the time while taking fire,” said Paul D. Patterson. “[Canley] was a man who inspired men, he was a Marine’s Marine. There was not place that [Canley] would ask us to go that we would not follow.”
“The leadership [and] cool under fire bravery that Gunny Canley showed throughout this horrendous battle has inspired me to this day,” said Gary E. Eichler.