Marine Gunny Awarded Medal of Honor for Battle of Hue Actions


President Trump signed a bill to award a Medal of Honor to 80-year-old Vietnam veteran, retired Marine Sergeant John Canley. The move upgrades the Navy Cross Sgt. Canley had previously been awarded to the highest U.S. military decoration. The decision was approved by Defense Secretary James Mattis.

Canley, a quiet, tall Marine lifer from Arkansas, took command of his company during the Battle of Hue because his captain was down. He carried several wounded Marines from under heavy enemy fire and maintained the unit’s organization and morale.

Congress had to waive the five-year limit for recommending the Medal of Honor. That fight was taken up by Rep. Julia Brownley (D-CA), and once that hurdle was overcome, it was go time.

“The credit for this award really should go to all the young Marines in Vietnam who inspired me every day,” said Canley. “Most of them didn’t receive any recognition, but they were the foundation of every battle in the Vietnam War,” he added.

Canley led the drive for a Medal of Honor to be awarded posthumously to Sgt. Alfredo Cantu “Freddy” Gonzalez, who along with Canley opened up a hole that allowed the bloodied battered Alpha Company, 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment to advance into Hue and the heart of the Tet Offensive. The 21-year-old Gonzalez was mortally wounded by a rocket. He took cover in the Saint Joan of Arc Catholic Church, where he died.

John Ligato, a private first class who became an FBI agent after the war, praised Canley’s actions, likening him to John Wayne.

“We all like to think we’re a little brave. He’s on a different plane,” said Ligato.

In 2005, Ligato started a drive to upgrade Canley’s Navy Cross, along with a purple heart and two bronze stars, to the Medal of Honor. It took 13 years.

Luckily,  Ligato approached Brownley’s staff in 2014 and asked the congresswoman to join the drive. The rest is history.

Canley’s citation states: “By his dynamic leadership, courage, and selfless dedication, Gunnery Sergeant Canley contributed greatly to the accomplishment of his company’s mission and upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and of the United States Naval Service.”

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F-35 Getting Ready For Combat


By Debbie Gregory.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the next generation fighter jet, is getting closer to full service. The program has been running years behind schedule and is billions over budget.

The single-engine F-35 comes in three variants. The A version is flown by the U.S. Air Force, the B version by the Marines, and the C version will become part of the U.S. Navy’s fleet.

Last year, the Air Force claimed the F-35 was “combat ready,” having reached a stage called “initial operating capability.” Recently, a squadron of Air Force F-35A Joint Strike Fighters was deployed to the Baltics as part of the European Reassurance Initiative.

The deployment is meant to send a message, and puts the F-35 as close to the action as it’s ever been, underscoring U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s belief that U.S.-Russian relations were at a “low point.”

The F-35 deployment to Europe comes after the Marine Corps’ deployment of F-35s to Asia to train with the South Korean military.

The F-35’s cost issues were addressed at the end of last year when then-president-elect Donald Trump tweeted about the “tremendous cost and cost overruns of the Lockheed Martin F-35.”

Trump has claimed that he was directly responsible for helping save $700 million on a February order of 90 F-35s, adding that costs will continue to shrink as more planes are delivered.

“Now you know that’s a saving of billions and billions of dollars, many billions of dollars over the course of – it’s between 2,500 and 3,000 planes will be the final order,” Trump said in an interview, projecting additional savings as the aircraft ramps up production.

The $400 billion price tag for the program is double the original budget, prompting Defense Secretary James Mattis to commission a review of the program in an effort to cut costs. But the Pentagon has also worked with Lockheed Martin to bring the costs down.

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DoD to Set Troop Levels

troop levels

By Debbie Gregory.

Defense Secretary James Mattis now has more flexibility in the ongoing fight against the Islamic State after President Trump granted the Pentagon new authorities to determine the number of U.S. troops deployed to Iraq and Syria.

Known as the force management level, or “FML,” the number of troops deployed to either country is sent to Congress, and updated anytime there are major force deployments, which is intended to promote transparency.

“Restoring FML decisions to the Secretary of Defense enables military commanders to be more agile, adaptive and efficient in supporting our partners, and enables decisions that benefit unit readiness, cohesion and lethality,” Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White said

Previously, the White House had retained control regarding setting troop levels under both the Obama and Bush administrations. Previous defense secretaries Robert Gates, Leon Panetta and Chuck Hagel complained about being “micromanaged” by White House officials on military matters.

Since his Senate confirmation hearings, Mattis has made clear that he is looking for ways to accelerate the campaign against ISIS.

Trump has outsourced a lot of decision making power to other departments. The decision to drop the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast, referred to as the “mother of all bombs” on ISIS in Afghanistan, was made by the DoD.

The Pentagon will not routinely announce or confirm information about force numbers, locations, or troop movements in or out of Iraq and Syria.

Air Force Col. John Dorrian, the spokesman for U.S. forces for Iraq and Syria said, “With regard to the number of forces that are going into Syria, and their exact locations, what they’re doing, their comings and goings, the exact capabilities we’re bringing in, the coalition is really not going to get into the business of giving play-by-play updates on those, on those capabilities.”

However, other defense officials suggest this move will allow military commanders to be more transparent with both Congress and the public.

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Vets in Congress Back Mattis for Ban Exemptions


By Debbie Gregory.

Defense Secretary James Mattis has requested that President Trump exempt Iraqi nationals, who risked their lives to help American troops in wartime, from the executive order halting immigration from Iraq. Trump’s executive order, published Jan. 27, put an immediate temporary halt to immigration from seven countries, including Iraq.

Mattis has the backing of a bipartisan group of lawmakers, who made a written request in a letter to the president. The letter asks Trump to exempt Iraqi military interpreters, aides and allies from the scope of the order.

The bipartisan letter was signed by Reps. Duncan Hunter, R-California, Adam Kinzinger, R-Illinois, Steve Stivers, R-Ohio; Earl Blumenauer, D-Oregon; Seth Moulton, D-Massachusetts; and Peter Welch, D-Vermont.

Both Hunter and Kinzinger are veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, respectively. Stivers and Moulton are also veterans.

“We made a promise to the men and women who served alongside us on the battlefield, and we must uphold that promise to leave no man behind,” Hunter and Kinzinger said in a joint statement. “We urge the president to honor Secretary Mattis’ requests, and stand up for those who stood by our military and American personnel. For the safety of these courageous individuals and their families, and in the interest of our national security, it’s critical that we make this exception and do so swiftly.”

Moulton, a Marine Corps veteran of Iraq, has publicly discussed bringing his own interpreter to the United States on a Special Immigrant Visa, and has taken an even stronger stance in full opposition to Trump’s executive order.

Moulton warned that closing doors to immigration would fuel antipathy against the U.S. and help Islamic State radicals recruit new suicide bombers.

“His policies literally put our troops’ lives at risk — I’ve heard this loud and clear when I have visited them overseas,” he said. “They also prove he has zero understanding of our country’s values and no intention of defending our Constitution.”

The order caused immigrants currently in transit to be taken into custody, including Hameed Khalid Darweesh, who had reportedly worked for the U.S. government in Iraq for more than ten years. Darweesh was ultimately released.

There are special immigrant visas that were expressly created for Iraqis and Afghans who assisted American troops, so that they could relocate to the United States, acknowledging that their work put their lives and the lives of their  families in peril.

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.