Medal of Honor Recipient from Oxnard Uses Newfound Platform to Talk to Marines
I called retired Marine Sgt. Maj. John Canley last week to ask him if we could catch up on what he’s been doing since he was awarded the Medal of Honor in October by President Donald Trump for his exemplary service in Vietnam. He called me back from a naval base in San Diego, where he was hanging out with Marines.
He said he’d be happy to meet me. I suggested we meet a couple days after he arrived back home in Oxnard, and he told me that he was leaving that day for another base up north. I was grateful that he managed to sandwich me in between his military engagements.
The sergeant major is 81 years old.
He runs a seven-minute mile, works out for two hours a day and easily keeps up with the Marine recruits in physical training exercises.
“The pace is based on the slowest person,” Canley told me, implying that it’s not hard for him to keep up with the slowest active-duty Marine in a unit.
Canley is using his newfound platform to talk to Marines and other veterans about leadership. Over the past six months, he’s been to Quantico in Virginia, as well as Marine bases in North Carolina, Hawaii and all over California. He said he gets a very warm reception and that the young guys, especially, love him.
It’s not hard to believe, because he has a rare mix of strength and warmth, combined with a humble self-assuredness, experience and wisdom. You find yourself listening carefully when Canley speaks.
His message is about leadership traits and principles, which he learned over the course of 28 years in the U.S. Marine Corps.
“Young Marines inspired me every day because of the job they did in Vietnam,” Canley said.
Vietnam was unique, Canley says, in that the average age of the kid fighting in the jungle was 19 – not 26, as it had been in World War II (or something over 30, as it is today). He says the foundation of the Marine Corps was intact, which sustained the troops, but equipment and leadership were lacking. According to Canley, soldiers were outfitted with substandard equipment – canteens from WWII falling off belts due to jungle rot.
Despite these challenges – not to mention the fact that these young guys were dropped into Southeast Asian jungles sight unseen – Canley has nothing but praise for the performance of American Marines in Vietnam.
Canley was honored last year for his heroic actions in Hue City, Vietnam, at the outset of the Tet Offensive, the bloodiest and longest battle American troops faced during the war. He assumed leadership of his company after his commanding officer was seriously wounded, saving the lives of countless Marines over the course of the seven-day battle.
Canley has expanded his audience significantly since receiving the Medal of Honor last fall. He met the president, White House officials, then-Defense Secretary James Mattis, and Rep. Julia Brownley, who helped shepherd the award through Congress and to the White House.
Canley shows no sign of slowing down and intends to continue his tour of Marine bases and other veteran hangouts across America.
But if this gig doesn’t work out, I think Mr. Canley shows real promise in a side career as a personal trainer, exercise science scholar or longevity coach.
April 2, 4:30-7 p.m.: Hawkeye’s Meatloaf Dinner at the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Post 3935, 300 Surfside Drive, Port Hueneme.
April 6: Deep-sea fishing at Hook’s Landing, 3600 S. Harbor Blvd., Oxnard. Catch a memory aboard the Coroloma. Check in is at 5:15 a.m., boat departs at 6 a.m. and returns at 3 p.m. Space is limited, and those interested must sign up by April 2. Active-duty military and dependents are $65 each. Department of Defense, retirees and guests are $70 each. Fee includes boat fare and bait. Participants are responsible for bringing their own tackle and fishing rods. Additional information and sign-ups at 805-982-4284 or 805-989-7628.
April 21, 10 a.m.: Easter brunch at the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Post 3935, 300 Surfside Drive, Port Hueneme. Family-friendly event with food, games and an Easter egg hunt for the kids.
April 21, 9 a.m.: Easter breakfast at the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Wallace Chaffee Post 1679, 3801 Market St., Ventura. Call 805-642-2674 for more information.
April 26: Ribeye steak dinner, followed by karaoke at the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Wallace Chaffee Post 1679, 3801 Market St., Ventura. Dinner is 5:30-7 p.m., with karaoke from 7-11 p.m.
April 27: Steak dinner at the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Post 10049, 4242 E. Los Angeles Ave., Simi Valley. Cocktails are at 5 p.m. and dinner at 6-9 p.m. Cost is $15 donation per plate for steak, potatoes, vegetable and dessert. Call 805-583-9722 for more information.
Laura Sether is the development project manager for Gold Coast Veterans Foundation. To learn more about veterans services or to help veterans in need, please call the foundation at 805-482-6550 or email email@example.com.
Source: VC Star article from March 30, 2019