The Marines' New Birthday Video Features Vietnam War Hero John Canley

Retired Sgt. Maj. John Canley, a recent Medal of Honor recipient, speaks during Gen. Robert Neller’s U.S. Marine Corps birthday video address. (Screengrab from USMC video)
Retired Sgt. Maj. John Canley, a recent Medal of Honor recipient, speaks during Gen. Robert Neller’s U.S. Marine Corps birthday video address. (Screengrab from USMC video)

The Marine Corps' most recent Medal of Honor recipient is just one example of an individual's leadership shaping the service's 243-year-old legacy.

That's the message Commandant Gen. Robert Neller has for Marines in a video released Thursday ahead of the service's Nov. 10 birthday.

With every new rank and assignment comes new responsibility, he said. And those like retired Sgt. Maj. John Canley and the women who answered the call to serve during World War I 100 years ago are just two examples of how rank-and-file Marines have shaped the Corps' long history.

"Dedication to victory is something we can trace back to every conflict in our history," Neller says in the video. "It defines us. It defines warriors like Gunnery Sgt. John Canley, a leader who led from the front."

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When Canley and his Marines were outnumbered during the 1968 Battle for Hue City in Vietnam, the then-company gunnery sergeant stood tall during firefights and threw himself into harm's way to keep his Marines safe, Neller said.

Canley was awarded the Medal of Honor last month for those actions more than five decades ago. His Marines fought for years to see their gunny's Navy Cross upgraded to the award they felt he deserved.

"The only thing I was doing was responding," said Canley, who took over for his wounded company commander early in the battle. "The Marines, the young Marines, it shows them it's not 'do as I say, it's do as I do.' "

Just being close to his troops brought motivation to them, he said.

"My legacy was about taking care of Marines," he added.

Marines have fought and won tough battles all around the world because of the kind of leadership, grit and tenacity shown by those like Canley, Sergeant Major of the Marine Corps Ronald Green says in the message.

True victory, Neller adds, comes from the individual Marine.

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

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