The Medal of Honor. Photo by Gerald BlankenshipAbove: The Medal of Honor. Photo by Gerald Blankenship
As our nation first began its fight for freedom, George
Washington understood the significance of acknowledging
meritorious actions in combat. However, it was Abraham
Lincoln on July 12, 1862,
who signed statute 10
U.S.C. 3741 authorizing
the first Medal of Honor
to “be presented, in the
name of Congress, to
officers and privates as
shall most distinguish
themselves by their
gallantry in action.”
The Medal of Honor stamp was issued in 1983.Above: The Medal of
Honor stamp was issued
First Sergeant David H. McNerney in Vietnam 1966.
Above: First Sergeant David H. McNerney in Vietnam 1966.
Photo by Ken Mayberry.
The Navy with Marines and Coast Guard, the Army, and the
Air Force would eventually each have their own Medal of Honor.
In 1896 legislation established a unique suspension ribbon for the Medal of Honor, in 1897 names of potential recipients
needed to be submitted by a witness with sworn testimony
to the heroic deed, and in 1904 a ring of laurel leaves was
added around the Army’s inverted star with a new blue ribbon
and 13 stars. 1906 revisions specified that there be an
impressive ceremony in Washington, D.C., whenever it is possible.
World War I brought further
substantive definition for
the Army Medal of Honor.
It was carefully spelled
out “That the President is
authorized to present, in
the name of the Congress, a
Medal of Honor only to each
person who, while an officer
or enlisted man of the Army,
shall hereafter, in action
involving actual conflict with
an enemy, distinguish himself
conspicuously by gallantry
and intrepidity at the risk of
his life above and beyond
the call of duty.”
President Lyndon B. Johnson congratulates First Sergeant David H. McNerney at the White House award ceremony, September 19, 1968.Above: President Lyndon
White House photo.
B. Johnson congratulates
First Sergeant David
H. McNerney at the White
House award ceremony,
September 19, 1968.
White House photo.
The Medal of Honor is the highest United States Military
award, recognizing uncommon valor. The diversity among
the more than 3,400 Medal of Honor recipients is hardly
surprising, but each chose, at one pivotal moment in combat,
to commit his life beyond the call of duty.
First Sergeant David H. McNerney in 1968 and in 2003.Above: First Sergeant David H. McNerney in 1968 and in 2003.
Photos by (left) U.S. Army and (right) Robert E. Bush.
Photos by (left) U.S. Army and (right) Robert E. Bush.
This Medal of Honor recognizes First Sergeant David H.
McNerney, one of 2,800,000 uniformed members of the
United States Military who served in Vietnam and one of
only 246 men who also received this recognition.
David H. McNerney was born in Lowell, Massachusetts in
1931 and settled in Houston, Texas. He grew up with a family
tradition of military
the value of community service
with his dad’s
Boy Scout Troop
#505. After graduating
enlisted in the
Navy in 1949 and was quickly deployed to Korea.
Boy Scout Troop 505, Houston, Texas 1945. David H. McNerney, top row, far right.Above: Boy Scout Troop
505, Houston, Texas 1945.
David H. McNerney, top row,
far right. Family photo.
returning home, he planned to use the GI Bill to continue his
education but he stopped to
talk with an Army recruiter
on the way to class. Soon
he was at Fort Bliss, Texas,
volunteering for one of
the early expeditionary
forces in Vietnam. After two tours of duty in Vietnam he was assigned to train recruits
at Fort Lewis, Washington.
The Korean War Memorial stamp was issued in 2003.Above: The Korean War
Memorial stamp was
issued in 2003.
When his unit received orders for Vietnam, he volunteered to
accompany them. “After all those months they belonged to
me—I felt responsible for them.” On March 22, 1967, near
Polei Doc, near the Cambodian border, First Sergeant David
H. McNerney of Company A, 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment
of the 4th Infantry Division, was “just doing my job.” That’s
how he would describe the
battle that took place that day,
but on this day his job meant
surviving an ambush that
involved extremely close in
combat. All officers were killed
save one who was badly
wounded. Although significantly
outnumbered and seriously
wounded from a grenade that
landed next to him, McNerney
assumed command. He
counted 22 of his soldiers dead
and was determined to do his
part to keep the rest of his men
alive. McNerney succeeded,
through a series of daring actions
that evacuated his 43 wounded
and preserved his remaining
43 soldiers. The events that
occurred that day resulted in
First Sergeant McNerney being
summoned to the White House where his courageously bold
actions of heroism and leadership were honored in a
formal ceremony. President Lyndon B. Johnson expressed
his appreciation to a fellow Texan and his great gratitude for
First Sergeant McNerney’s answer to the challenge of the
battle in the “Valley of Tears” with a willingness and ability
to endure hardship in service to his country.
The Vietnam War stamp was issued in 1999. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial stamp was issued in 2000.
Above: The Vietnam War stamp was issued in 1999. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial stamp was issued in 2000.
After volunteering and serving a fourth tour of duty in
Vietnam, First Sergeant McNerney retired with twenty years of military
service. He then joined the United States Customs
Service, where he spent 25 distinguished years of service
before retiring in 1995. After his second retirement he gave
much of his time to his community and veterans organizations
that also included speaking with school children about
military service and service to the country. He continued
his involvement with the JROTC and the Crosby, Texas, American
Legion Post 658.
David H. McNerney visited the Smithsonian National Postal Museum in Washington, DC, in 2010, to view rare 1933 Balbo covers and other material from the vault. Photo by May Day Taylor.
Above: David H. McNerney visited the Smithsonian National Postal Museum in Washington, DC, in 2010, to view rare 1933 Balbo covers and other material from the vault.
Photo by May Day Taylor.
During his life, David McNerney was an avid stamp collector
as well as a sailor and soldier, a First Sergeant,
a Medal of Honor recipient, husband, uncle to 16 nieces and
nephews, and a community volunteer. His interest in earning
his Boy Scout Stamp Merit Badge had grown from a hobby to
a passion. His first collection, primarily of American stamps,
was sold to help purchase his first home. He resumed stamp
collecting as a world-wide collector. While he went where the
military sent him, those experiences were enlarged through
his stamp collection. In many ways he felt he accompanied the
service men and women in every battle in the American
experience through his extensive stamp collection and his
collateral reading. McNerney was a life-long learner through
his stamps and said he liked all the stamps he ever met.
“Steadfast and Loyal”
The Medal of Honor will be displayed in the new William
H. Gross Gallery (opening late 2013) at the Smithsonian
National Postal Museum with First Sergeant David H.
McNerney’s photo and a selection of his stamps from Korea
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial stamp was issued in 1984. The Vietnam Veterans stamp was issued in 1979.
Above: The Vietnam Veterans Memorial stamp was issued in 1984. The Vietnam Veterans stamp was issued in 1979.
The Vietnam stamp, issued in 1955, is from David McNerney's collection.
Above: The Vietnam stamp, issued in 1955, is from David McNerney's collection.
Korean souvenir sheet, issued in 1951, is from David McNerney's collection.
Above: Korean souvenir sheet, issued in 1951, is from David McNerney's collection.
To Learn More:
The Medal of Honor Citation — United States Army
Portraits of Valor: Beyond the Call of Duty, 2008
Author, Peter Collier
Documentary film 2010, Honor in the Valley of Tears,
Director: Eric S. Dow
Producer: John A. Ponsoll
Congressional Medal of Honor Society
Preserving the History of Recipients of the Medal of Honor
Medal of Honor Host City Program
Stamps related to the Medal of Honor:
Also look for Buffalo Bill Cody, Teddy Roosevelt,
Douglas MacArthur, Eddie Rickenbacker, John Basilone,
Audie Murphy, Daniel J. Daly, John McCloy, Hispanic Americans
and Dr. Mary Walker all depicted on U.S. stamps.
# # #
Medal of Honor Recipients Featured on Recent Stamps
Medal of Honor recipient Daniel J. Daly postage stamp
Above: Medal of Honor recipient Daniel J. Daly postage stamp
Medal of Honor recipient John McCloy postage stamp
Above: Medal of Honor recipient John McCloy postage stamp
Compiled by May Day Taylor