By Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Gabrielle Joyner, Navy Public Affairs Support Element Detachment Hawaii: Sailors Honored at USS Utah Ceremony
In Memorium: Wesley L. Fox
Wesley Lee Fox (September 30, 1931 – November 24, 2017) was a United States Marine Corps colonel with 43 years of service. Fox received the Medal of Honor for his heroic actions during the Vietnam War, and is considered to be one of the Marine Corps’ legendary heroes.
Fox was born to John Wesley and Desola Lee (née Crouch) Fox in Herndon, Virginia, the oldest of ten siblings. He attended Warren County High School in Front Royal, Virginia until 1948.
Fox enlisted in the Marine Corps shortly before his 19th birthday, on August 4, 1950 during the beginning of the Korean War. He completed recruit training at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, South Carolina. By January 1951, he was serving as a rifleman with Company I, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines. He was wounded in action in Korea on September 8, 1951 and sent to the U.S. Navy Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland, and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V”. He recovered in 1952, and was sent back to Korea after the war was over as a Platoon Sergeant with Company G, 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, in 1954. When he returned home from Korea, he was assigned to duty as both a drill instructor from 1955 to 1957 and a recruiter from 1957 to 1960. In May 1966, he was promoted to First Sergeant, and shortly afterwards, he was commissioned as a Marine Second Lieutenant.
Beginning in September 1967, Fox served in the Vietnam War for 13 months as an executive officer of a South Vietnamese Marine Battalion. In November 1968, he was reassigned to Vietnam as the company commander of Company A, 1st Battalion, 9th Marines until May 1969. On February 22, 1969, during Operation Dewey Canyon in Quang Tri Province, he was wounded twice. He was wounded the first time in the shoulder when his company was attacked by a large enemy force. A first lieutenant at the time, Fox then personally neutralized one enemy emplacement and directed his company to destroy the enemy. After his company’s executive officer was mortally wounded, he continued to direct the company’s actions, ordering air strikes and coordinating the advance until the enemy retreated; Fox, the only officer left in his company that was capable of resisting the enemy, was wounded again in the final assault, but refused medical attention while he reorganized his troops and prepared the wounded for evacuation. For his heroic actions that day he was presented the Medal of Honor by President Richard Nixon on March 2, 1971.
Later years and death
Fox retired from the Marine Corps as a full colonel in September 1993 at the mandatory age of 62. He held every enlisted rank except Sergeant Major and every officer rank except General. He continued to wear the uniform for eight more years as a deputy commandant of cadets for the Virginia Tech Corps of Cadets. During his time at Virginia Tech, Fox spoke of his experiences to America’s next generation of military officers, business executives, and civic leaders.
Fox wrote a book about his experiences in the military, Marine Rifleman: Forty-Three Years in the Corps (ISBN 1-57488-425-5), and was featured on the 2003 PBS program American Valor. Fox resided in Blacksburg, Virginia, with his wife, Dotti (formerly Dotti Lu Bossinger). They have three daughters. He died in Blacksburg in the evening of November 24, 2017.
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