The staff and volunteers at the Military Museum were sad to hear that one of our long serving docents, John Kelly had recently passed away.
In his honor, we are posting an article we published in our newsletter in 2014 about John Kelly, Vietnam veteran and citizen of New York State for many years.
John Kelly was born in Brooklyn, New York, and attended High School at Bayside Queens, graduating in 1962. He comes from a family of three younger sisters and an older brother.
After High School, John entered St. John’s University and graduated in 1966 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in History. Later on, he studied for his Masters Degree in Management, and was awarded a Masters Degree in 1983 from the College of St. Rose.
After graduating from College in 1966, and a few short jobs, John turned his attention to the military and enlisted in the U.S. Army and underwent Army Infantry training at Fort Dix, New Jersey. Next, John was selected for OCS training and in 1967 was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. He was then stationed at Fort Hood, Texas in 1967 and 1968 with the 1st Armored Division, and then attended Jungle School in Panama.
John eventually saw service in Vietnam from 1968 to 1969 with the 1st Battalion of the 35th Infantry, 4th Infantry Division as a platoon leader, in the vicinity of Pleiku, Vietnam.
For his service in Vietnam, John was awarded the Combat Infantryman Badge and two Bronze Stars, one with a “V” for valor. The Bronze Star is the fourth-highest individual military award in the U.S. Military.
Lieutenant Kelly’s Award of the Bronze Star for Heroism citation reads as follow: “For heroism in connection with military operations against an armed hostile force in the Republic of Vietnam. First Lieutenant Kelly distinguished himself while serving as a Platoon Leader with Company B, 1st Battalion, 35th Infantry, 4th Infantry Division. On 18 February 1969, Lieutenant Kelly's unit was set up in a night ambush position when an eighty man North Vietnamese force moved into the unit's kill zone. Under his direction, Lieutenant Kelly had his men engage the enemy with M-79 and fragmentation grenades, thereby minimizing the possibility of revealing the friendly positions. The effective use of his personnel resulted in confusing and ultimately routing the enemy, and the capture of enemy weapons and equipment. First Lieutenant Kelly's superb, outstanding leadership, outstanding performance and exemplary devotion to duty are in keeping with the highest traditions of the military service and reflect great credit upon himself, his unit and the United States Army."
John was released from active duty in 1969, and was transferred to the Army Reserve, in the Intel field. Later on, in 1984, as a Captain he transferred to the New York National Guard, and completed his thirty-nine years of service in the military in 2005, and retired as a Major. For his service in the U.S. Army, for different periods of service, he was also awarded four Army Commendation Medals.
In 1973, John began a career with the State of New York as a public servant, beginning with the Parks and Recreation Department till 1981, and then transferred to the Office of General Services, and eventually retired from the State in March of 2003. He and his wife have raised four daughters, two of which are now married, and have been blessed with four grandchildren, two boys and two girls.