News | Oct. 31, 2013

Vietnam Medal of Honor recipient visits CENTCOM, speaks to troops

By Sgt. Fredrick Coleman , CENTCOM Public Affairs

MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. – Retired Navy Capt. Thomas G. Kelley, a Medal of Honor recipient from the Vietnam War, visited with members of U.S. Central Command Oct. 21 to speak on his experiences in life and thank the men and women who currently serve at CENTCOM for their service.

Former President Richard Nixon presented Kelley the Medal of Honor for his actions as commander of River Assault Division 152 in June 1969.  Kelley directed his boats to form a protective area around one of his disabled boats.  He maneuvered a boat, in which he was embarked on, to the protective side of the cordon, exposing him and his boat directly to enemy fire and began to fire on Viet Cong forces. During the battle, an enemy rocket hit the boat, penetrating the thick armored plate, spraying shrapnel in all direction. Kelley suffered severe head wounds and was knocked to the deck as a result of the blast. With disregard for his own injuries, he relayed his commands through another member on the boat, which resulted in successfully moving his boats to a safe area and silencing the enemy’s attack.

“It’s great to hear the stories about the heroes who came before us,” said Sgt. Roderick Melvin, administrative non-commissioned officer for CENTCOM’s protocol section. “It was a history lesson told from a first person perspective and I enjoyed listening to him.”

Kelley, a Boston native, retired from the Navy in 1990.  In 2003, he returned to his hometown where he worked in the Massachusetts Department of Veteran’s Services and retired as secretary of the same department in 2010.