Medal of Honor winner to speak

NORTHEAST HARBOR — Tom and Joan Kelley will discuss their memoir “The Siren’s Call and Second Chances” Wednesday, Aug. 21 at 5:30 p.m. at the Northeast Harbor Public Library.

Tom Kelley served on several surface ships before being assigned to the Army-Navy Mobile Riverine Force in Vietnam in 1968. On June 15, 1969, Lieutenant Kelley was commander of River Assault Division 152 and led a force of eight boats on a mission to extract a U.S. Army infantry company from a canal bank.

During the extraction mission, the convoy came under attack from hostile forces on the opposite bank. One of his boats suffered a mechanical failure which prevented it from getting underway. After ordering the other boats to form a protective cordon around the disabled boat, Lt. Kelley maneuvered his own boat to the front, between his men and the enemy fire, and engaged the hostile fire.

A rocket-propelled grenade detonated close to him, spraying shrapnel in all directions. He received a severe head wound but was able to continue to relay directions to his unit until the crippled boat got underway and the group was able to depart safely.

For his actions, Lt. Kelley was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1970 by President Richard Nixon.

Despite his serious wounds which included the loss of an eye, Lt. Kelley requested and received authorization to remain in the military and he served an additional 20 years, including command of a destroyer.

He retired with the rank of Captain in 1990. He worked as a civilian for the U.S. Navy in Washington D.C., before returning to Boston in 1998, where he served as Secretary of the Massachusetts Department of Veterans’ Services until 2011.

Joan Kelley is a former practicing attorney and U.S. Navy officer. She served on active duty assignments in protocol and community relations in Boston, as well as training duty in Norway and Italy with NATO. She retired from the U.S. Navy in 1991 after Operation Desert Storm. The profits from sales of their book support a veterans’ charity.

This talk is free and open to the public. Contact 276-3333.


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