For the eighth consecutive year, Daytona International Speedway is honored to welcome Congressional Medal of Honor recipients to the 4th of July weekend festivities.
The program actually began in 1969, when Bill France Sr. invited all surviving Medal of Honor recipients to attend the 1969 race, dubbing it the Medal of Honor Firecracker 400. A total of 100 members from 31 states attended the race with Thomas J. Kelly, the president of the Medal of Honor Society, serving as the grand marshal with the heroes flown in via military aircraft.
That proud tradition continues this year with three Congressional Medal of Honor recipients set to honored as Daytona International Speedway and race fans everywhere will pay tribute to these brave heroes that have “distinguished himself or herself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his or her life above and beyond the call of duty.”
Captain Thomas Kelley (Vietnam)
Place/Date: Ong Muong Canal, Kien Hoa province, Republic of Vietnam, 15 June 1969
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty in the afternoon while serving as commander of River Assault Division 152 during combat operations against enemy aggressor forces. Lt. Comdr. (then Lt.) Kelley was in charge of a column of 8 river assault craft which were extracting 1 company of U.S. Army infantry troops on the east bank of the Ong Muong Canal in Kien Hoa province, when 1 of the armored troop carriers reported a mechanical failure of a loading ramp. At approximately the same time, Viet Cong forces opened fire from the opposite bank of the canal. After issuing orders for the crippled troop carrier to raise its ramp manually, and for the remaining boats to form a protective cordon around the disabled craft, Lt. Comdr. Kelley realizing the extreme danger to his column and its inability to clear the ambush site until the crippled unit was repaired, boldly maneuvered the monitor in which he was embarked to the exposed side of the protective cordon in direct line with the enemy's fire, and ordered the monitor to commence firing. Suddenly, an enemy rocket scored a direct hit on the coxswain's flat, the shell penetrating the thick armor plate, and the explosion spraying shrapnel in all directions. Sustaining serious head wounds from the blast, which hurled him to the deck of the monitor, Lt. Cmdr. Kelley disregarded his severe injuries and attempted to continue directing the other boats. Although unable to move from the deck or to speak clearly into the radio, he succeeded in relaying his commands through 1 of his men until the enemy attack was silenced and the boats were able to move to an area of safety. Lt. Comdr. Kelley's brilliant leadership, bold initiative, and resolute determination served to inspire his men and provide the impetus needed to carry out the mission after he was medically evacuated by helicopter. His extraordinary courage under fire, and his selfless devotion to duty sustain and enhance the finest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.
Be here July 1 to welcome him and our other distinguished Medal of Honor heroes to the world’s only motorsports stadium for an Independence Day weekend celebration unlike any other. Get your seats today!
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