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Trump Granting ‘Totally Fearless’ Vietnam War Hero Medal of Honor After He Was Denied 10 Times

Retired Sgt. Maj. John Canley received the Navy Cross, two Bronze Stars, and a Purple Heart for his exemplary work in the military.

But that wasn’t good enough for his fellow Marines who spent nearly 15 years pushing for him to receive the nation’s highest military honor: the Medal of Honor.

“You followed him because he was a true leader — something you need in life-and-death situations,” John Ligato, a Marine who fought with Canley in Vietnam, told

Although Ligato said he gave up at times to get Canley the Medal of Honor, he and his fellow 1st Battalion Marines endured more than 10 rejections.

“The Medal of Honor was rejected 10 times — never on the merits of what he did, it was always procedural,” he said.

“The irony is he’s one of the most deserved Medal of Honor recipients ever in the history of our country,” Ligato said of Canley, whom he also described as “totally fearless.”

Canley, according to Stars and Stripes, jumped into a leadership position while serving as a gunnery sergeant.

With his commander seriously injured, Canley took over his fellow Marines during one of the Vietnam War’s bloodiest battles and neutralized enemy combatants during a weeklong siege.

During that time, Canley suffered several injuries as well but was able to rescue injured Marines. He reportedly saved countless lives.

The Marines Catch a Break With a California Congresswoman
When Defense Secretary James Mattis reviewed Canley’s file in 2017, he recognized the retired the Marine’s accomplishments but noted that Medal of Honor recipients had a short, five-year time frame for receiving the award after their particular achievement.

Mattis’ review came after one of the Marines reached out to the congresswoman who represented Canley’s district in California.

Rep. Julia Brownley (D-Calif.) helped get the Department of Defense’s review and eventually passed a resolution allowing Canley to receive the award despite the fact that Canley’s achievements occurred 50 years ago.

President Donald Trump, who signed the resolution, personally called Canley, 80, in early July to tell him he would receive the award his friends sought for him for so many years.

“He told me that it was OK to let my Marines know that I would be receiving the Medal of Honor,” Canley told “He thanked me for my service and also wanted to thank my Marines for their service.”

Despite the extraordinary nature of the honor, Canley maintained a level of modesty when asked about it.

“It’s more about them than me,” he told the Ventura County Star. “This is about the young Marines that sacrificed so much. I just happened to be their leader.”

In a video posted by the Ventura County Star, Canley described how important it was for leaders to consider the people in their ranks.


“To me, being a leader is about taking care of your people. If you do that, they will take care of you and you don’t have to worry about the mission,” he said.

He added that regardless of whether a leader was in the military or not, they should always remember that.

“People, subordinates, have problems,” he said. “You must do everything that you can within your power to alleviate that problem.”

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