Medal of Honor Recipient Thomas Kelly Visits NJPSA

Posted · Add Comment

The New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association was honored to host a true American hero at the FEA Conference Center on Thursday, October 23, as Lieutenant Commander Thomas G. Kelly spoke to approximately 130 members during a Character Development Program presented by the Medal of Honor Foundation.  


Lt. Kelly was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by President Richard Nixon on May 14, 1970. After joining the Navy in the early 1960s, his first assignment was onboard on old World War II landing ship in the Caribbean during the Cuban Missile Crisis. During the Vietnam War, he volunteered for the Navy’s River Assault Division, part of the Mobile Riverine Force, whose boats were particularly vulnerable to enemy guns concealed in the jungle along the water’s edge, because of their size and slowness.


On June 15, 1969, Lt. Kelly was in command of a group of eight boats that were targeted by rocket-propelled grenades, machine guns, and mortars from the Vietcong. Kelly sustained a serious head wound and struggled to remain conscious so he could continue to lead the battle. He lay in a coma for several days, lost his eye and portions of his skull.


Yesterday, he spoke to New Jersey educational leaders about the need for teamwork in education, the importance of leading by example, and the need for moral courage above physical courage in today’s society. His lessons of personal bravery and self sacrifice resonated well with the attendees who gave him a well-deserved standing ovation.


This program provides educators with the tools they need to bring the Medal of Honor program into their classrooms. The oral histories of those who have earned the Medal of Honor focus on values and how students can use these examples of courage, commitment, integrity, citizenship, and patriotism to  influence change in their own school communities.


The video of Lt. Kelly’s presentation and Q and A is available here: