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President Donald J. Trump presents the Medal of Honor to retired Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. John Canley for his actions in Vietnam in a ceremony at the White House, Oct. 17, 2018.
Canley, who used his brother’s paperwork to enlist in the Marines at the age of 15, proved to be an exceptional warrior during the house-to-house fighting against more than 6,000 North Vietnamese and Viet Cong troops, Trump told the audience.
When the White House announced in September that he would receive the Medal of Honor, Canley issued a statement saying he was accepting the award on behalf of those he served with in Vietnam.
“Their bravery and sacrifice is unparalleled,” Canley said.
By Gina Harkins: Trump Awards John Canley Medal of Honor for ‘Unmatched Bravery’ in Vietnam
For his actions and leadership, he received the Navy Cross, his service’s second-highest award for bravery. But Canley’s Marines didn’t think that was enough.
They spent the past 13 years gathering interviews, first-person accounts and other materials needed to see their company gunny’s award upgraded to the only one they thought he deserved: the Medal of Honor. It was denied 10 times, but they persisted.
“For me personally, it was an act of love,” said former Pfc. John Ligato, one of Canley’s Marines and a retired FBI agent who led the fight to see the medal upgraded. Ligato attended Wednesday’s Medal of Honor ceremony and said all he could do was sit back and smile.
The event brought dozens more Marines who fought alongside Canley and Gold Star family members who lost loved ones in the fight to Washington, D.C. Ligato said it gave the Marines and their families a chance to reconnect — including several who don’t typically attend reunions due to their injuries or post-traumatic stress.
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