Retired Sgt. Major John Canley of Oxnard received the prestigious Medal of Honor for his heroism during the Vietnam War in a White House ceremony on Wednesday.
Canley served as a Marine for 28 years. During the early days of the Tet Offensive in Hue City, Vietnam, Sgt. Major Canley saved the lives of many Marines and sailors, at times, scaling walls in open sight of the enemy to save his fellow servicemen.
In 1968, during the Battle of Hue, his commanding officer was gravely wounded. Then-Gunnery Sgt. Canley took immediate command of his company, directing several counter-attacks over many days, advancing the war strategically, and saving many American lives.
Canley’s road to receiving the Medal of Honor — the highest military honor awarded by the U.S. government — was everything but short. In 2014, one of Sgt. Major Canley’s fellow servicemembers contacted Congresswoman Julia Brownley (D-CA)’s office to request that she recommend that Canley’s medal be upgraded to the Medal of Honor.
Brownley’s office submitted the documentation requesting that the Department of Defense review Sgt. Major 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 James 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 5-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, October 17, 2018, Sergeant Major Canley — at long last — received the Medal of Honor.
Canley is also the recipient of the Navy Cross, as well as two Bronze Stars and a Purple Heart for his extraordinary heroism.