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Camp Pendleton Marine vets awarded Bronze Star Medals for actions in Vietnam War

Camp Pendleton Marine veterans awarded Bronze Star Medals for actions in Vietnam War
Posted at 4:47 PM, Jul 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-22 19:49:59-04

SAN DIEGO (KGTV) - After 54 years, three Camp Pendleton Marine veterans have been awarded the Bronze Star Medals for their actions during the Vietnam War.

Late January, 1968, in Vietnam, marked the month-long Battle of Hue, one of the bloodiest of the Vietnam War.

When Sergeant Major John Canley's commanding officer was severely wounded, Canley led the 150-man Alpha Company of the 1st Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment.

“He was on a different plane than all of us. He was totally fearless,” said John Ligato III.

Armed with grenades, Canley charged enemy machine gun nests, allowing his fellow Marines to escape while he rescued the wounded.

In 2018, he became the first living Black Marine to receive a Medal of Honor. Before he passed away in May, he pushed for other Marines to get the recognition they never received after the war, recognition that has finally arrived.

“At the time, it’s total chaos. You don't have time to think,” said Ligato.

Ligatro, a Camp Pendleton infantry rifleman who fought alongside Canley in the Battle of Hue, provided cover for Canley during his heroic charge, and during a battle at a church complex.

“I took lead with another Marine, and in several, 3 or 4 of the classrooms, we engaged in close-quarters combat,” said Ligato.

A few weeks ago, at MCRD San Diego, Ligato and two other Pendleton Marine veterans who fought alongside Canley, received the Bronze Star. Canley had submitted the award packages before he died. At the ceremony, Ligato felt pride for his fellow Bronze Star recipients and another feeling.

“In some ways, I feel guilty about the Bronze Star,” said Ligato.

Ligato says he can't help but think about all the junior enlisted Marines who fought in that battle and others during the Vietnam War and have never been recognized.

“It's not fair. Every Marine that I served with and observed in Hue could have gotten at least a Bronze Star,” said Ligato.

Ligato hopes his award will lead to a wide-ranging review of valor for enlisted personnel who served during the Vietnam War.

“The heroism was amazing and constant, and they were unrecognized for their valor,” said Ligato.

Among those attending the ceremony at MCRD: the family of the late John Canley.

As for Ligato, after the war, he went on to work for the FBI and has authored six different books.