Congresswoman Julia Brownley

Representing the 26th District of California

Brownley Bill to Bring Local Veteran One Step Closer to Receiving Medal of Honor Heads to President’s Desk

Jan 11, 2018
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Today, a bill authored by Congresswoman Julia Brownley (D-Westlake Village) heads to the President’s desk for signature, bringing Sergeant Major (Ret.) John Canley of Oxnard one step closer to receiving the prestigious Medal of Honor.

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. Additionally, he spent part of every year from 1965 to 1970 on the front lines in battle in Vietnam, a choice he made despite having the opportunity to take an administrative position.

For his extraordinary heroism, Canley received the Navy Cross, as well as two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart. In 2014, John Ligato, who served as a Private First Class with Sergeant Major Canley, contacted Congresswoman Brownley’s office to request that she recommend that his medal be upgraded to the Medal of Honor – the highest military award given by the U.S. government.

Last month, 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 “after giving the nomination careful consideration, I agree that then-Gunnery Sergeant Canley’s actions merit award of the Medal of Honor.” Secretary Mattis noted, however, that under federal law, the Medal of Honor must be awarded “within five years after the date of the act or service justifying the award.”

To waive this requirement, Congress must pass legislation, so Brownley got to work on getting a bill through the House and Senate. After working closely with House Leadership and House Committee Chairmen, the House passed a bill on December 21, 2017, waiving the time limit for Sergeant Major Canley. Since then, Brownley has been working with Senators Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris to get the bill through the Senate. It passed the Senate today and now heads to the President’s desk for signature. Once the legislation waiving the time limit is enacted, it will still be up to President Trump to decide whether Canley will actually receive the award.

“Sergeant Major Canley truly exemplifies the kind of courage and bravery for which this honor is awarded,” said Congresswoman Brownley. “His valorous actions and unwavering dedication to his fellow servicemembers is the reason so many of the men who support his nomination are alive today to testify on his behalf. His incredible gallantry and selflessness is an inspiration to us all. I am so grateful to all of my colleagues in the House and Senate, on both sides of the aisle, for helping expedite this bill, especially Senators Feinstein and Harris and House and Senate leadership. This is a great demonstration of Congress’s ability to work in a bipartisan manner when it comes to a truly just cause. I hope that starting the year on this note will set the tone for 2018, and the work that we can accomplish together to move our nation forward this year.”

“I want to profusely thank Congresswoman Brownley for her continued work helping me with this honor,” said Sergeant Major Canley. “The credit for this award really should go to all the young Marines in Vietnam who inspired me every day. Most of them didn’t receive any recognition, but they were the foundation of every battle in the Vietnam War.”

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 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.