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Medal of Honor recipient and poet Major John J. Duffy

Green Beret Veteran, Major John J. Duffy

Every year, on March 25, the nation comes together to honor the recipients of the Medal of Honor, the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force. We take a moment to recognize the courage and sacrifice of those who have gone above and beyond the call of duty.

Among these remarkable individuals is Green Beret Veteran, Major John J. Duffy. He has received 64 awards and decorations, among them are 29 valor decorations and 8 Purple Hearts. Major Duffy served in Vietnam as a Special Forces officer and played a crucial role as a special advisor with the Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV) Team 162, to the 11th Airborne Battalion, 2d Brigade, Airborne Division, Army of the Republic of Vietnam, in the Republic of Vietnam, also referred to as the "Red Hats," which resulted in his commendation.

His unwavering courage during the battle on April 14, 1972 to April 15, 1972, in the Central Highlands of Vietnam, also known as “The Battle for ‘Charlie”, set him apart. Beyond his military service, Major Duffy is also a published poet, using his experiences to create verses that capture his journey through life and combat.

On April 14, 1972, the 11th Airborne Battalion faced challenges in the combat zone. Their leader was lost, the command center destroyed, and Major Duffy was injured twice but refused to leave. He took command to defend Fire Support Base Charlie, surrounded by enemy forces. Despite being wounded again, he stayed on the front lines, calling for airstrikes and guiding gunships. Throughout the day, he ensured the safety of injured soldiers and distributed ammunition to his comrades. When the assault intensified, Major Duffy adjusted tactics and organized a nighttime evacuation. Although he was the last to leave, he continued coordinating with air support, facing further enemy ambushes to ensure everyone's safe extraction. Despite facing overwhelming challenges, Major Duffy remained firm.

"We went in with 471. We came out with 37. Most of them had been wounded and so we took a lot of casualties, but we accomplished a task."

His story serves as a testament to the bravery and sacrifice of all Medal of Honor recipients. Major Duffy utilized his poems to convey his wartime encounters and pay tribute to the bravery of his comrades.

He shares, “I knew it was a significant battle, and so I started jotting down four lines and finding a title - and I became a poet.”

After his service he went on to publishing 6 poetry books and was also nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. Among his works is "The Medal of Honor", which specifically recounts the moment when he received the top military award on July 5, 2022.

As a patient at VA Palo Alto for over 17 years, Major Duffy expresses gratitude to his health care team, saying, "I always say to the VA Palo Alto staff to take care, and thank you for your training, your education, and the good care you give me."

We thank all the Medal of Honor recipients for their extraordinary acts of valor and service to our country. Their courage and sacrifice inspire us all to uphold the values of honor, duty, and service.

For more detailed insights into Major Duffy's story, read the in-depth account on the Army webpage, and watch Major Duffy reciting his Medal of Honor poem on our Facebook page.

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