Sixth Fleet Hosts Medal of Honor Recipient

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NAPLES, Italy (August 27, 2010)- Capt. (ret) Thomas G. Kelley, a Medal of Honor recipient, and his wife, Joan, speak with Operations Specialist 2nd Class George Tomko along with eight other Sailors from Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/Commander, U.S. 6th Fleet headquarters. While on holiday in Italy, the Kelley's took time out of their vacation to come and speak with Sailors about their experiences and careers in the Navy. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd (SW/AW) Stephen Oleksiak/RELEASED)

NAPLES, Italy (August 27, 2010)-Capt. (ret) Thomas G. Kelley, a Medal of Honor recipient, receives official honors from Vice Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., commander of the U.S. Sixth Fleet as he arrives for a visit with military personnel at Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/Commander, U.S. 6th Fleet headquarters. While on holiday in Italy, Kelley and his wife, Joan, took time out of their vacation to come and speak with Sailors about their experiences and careers in the Navy. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd (SW/AW) Stephen Oleksiak/RELEASED)

NAPLES, Italy (August 27, 2010)- Vice Adm. Harry B. Harris Jr., commander of the U.S. Sixth Fleet, renders honors to the American flag alongside Capt.(ret) Thomas G. Kelley, a Medal of Honor recipient, during his arrival for a visit with military personnel at Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/Commander, U.S. 6th Fleet headquarters. While on holiday in Italy, Kelley and his wife, Joan, took time out of their vacation to come and speak with Sailors about their experiences and careers in the Navy. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd (SW/AW) Stephen Oleksiak/RELEASED)

NAPLES, Italy (August 27, 2010)- Capt. (ret) Thomas G. Kelley, a Medal of Honor recipient, and his wife, Joan, sit with nine Sailors from Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/Commander, U.S. 6th Fleet headquarters. While on holiday in Italy, the Kelley's took time out of their vacation to come and speak with Sailors about their experiences and careers in the Navy. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd (SW/AW) Stephen Oleksiak/RELEASED)

NAPLES, Italy (August 27, 2010)- Capt. (ret) Thomas G. Kelley, a Medal of Honor recipient, and his wife, Joan, sit with nine Sailors from Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/Commander, U.S. 6th Fleet headquarters. While on holiday in Italy, the Kelley's took time out of their vacation to come and speak with Sailors about their experiences and careers in the Navy. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd (SW/AW) Stephen Oleksiak/RELEASED)

NAPLES, Italy -- Medal of Honor recipient, Capt.(ret) Thomas G. Kelley paid a visit to Sailors at Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet (CNE-CNA/C6F) headquarters on Naval Support Activity, Naples, Aug. 27.

While on holiday in Italy, Kelley and his wife, Joan, took time out of their vacation to come and speak with Sailors about their experiences and careers in the Navy.

“My wife has relatives in the area,” said Kelley. “When we decided to come and visit we knew that there was a naval facility in the area, so we asked the powers-that-be if we could come and talk to some Sailors.”

Kelley and the nine Sailors selected to represent CNE-CNA/C6F covered a wide range of conversational topics including post traumatic stress, their most cherished or memorable moments in their careers and one question that captured the nine Sailors undivided attention.

“What was going through your mind back in Kien Hoa Province?” asked Operations Specialist 1st Class Seamus McGinley. “What kept you going?”

While serving as commander, River Assault Division 152 during combat operations against enemy aggressor forces in the Republic of Vietnam, June 15, 1969, Lieutenant Kelley was in charge of a column of eight river assault craft.

His division was extracting one company of United States Army infantry troops on the east bank of the Ong Muong Canal in Kien Hoa Province when one craft with loading ramp malfunctions came under enemy fire.

“My first thought was ‘Not me, this isn’t happening to me’,” replied Kelley. “But, then I gathered myself, trying to ignore my injuries, and did what I had to make sure that all of our craft got out of the canal.”

Kelley sustained major head injuries during his effort to protect that broken craft until it was repaired, ultimately costing him his right eye.

“I guess it looked so bad, that I would occasionally hear them say, ‘He’s dead’,” said Kelley. “But, I would yell right back, ‘No, I’m not!’”

Kelley also spoke about the comradery service members share in the military, touching many of the Sailors during their conversation.

“Kelley feels the same way modern Sailors and other service members feel when it comes to our time in the service,” said Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class Jason Funk. “That one of the greatest parts of being in the military is the comradery we share; that sometimes this is a family closer than our own.”

After almost an hour of conversation and sharing stories, the Kelley’s said their goodbyes and left with warm smiles and comfort knowing that the military is in the hands of excellent future leaders.

“I feel that since this an all-volunteer service it means that today’s service member is very motivated and that they’re here because they want be here,” said Kelley. “It’s clear to me that any one of these men or women would have done the same thing I did if the opportunity ever presented itself; it’s nice to let them know that people from a different era appreciate what they’re doing now.”

Kelley received the Medal of Honor on May 14, 1970, for his actions in Kien Hoa. He retired from the U.S. Navy as a captain in 1990 and worked as a civilian in the Department of Defense for several years. He currently serves as Secretary of the Massachusetts Department of Veterans' Services.

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AUGUSTA BAY, Sicily (March 16, 2011) - USS Mount Whitney (LCC/JCC 20), the U.S. Sixth Fleet flag ship homeported out of Gaeta, Italy, and USS Ponce (LPD 15), an amphibious transport dock ship homeported out of Norfolk, Va., take on supplies while inport Augusta Bay, Sicily. Both ships are operating in the Mediterranean Sea as part of a scheduled deployment in the U.S. Sixth Fleet area of responsibility.  (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Gary Keen/Released)

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