Wednesday, February 22, 2012

TFH 2/22: Colonel Wesley L. Fox, USMC

Today's edition of Their Finest Hour has special significance for me. This is a man I have personally met on, if I remember correctly, three occasions - all at Marine Corps Base Quantico between 1990 and 1992.

Wesley Lee Fox was born on September 30, 1931 in Herndon, VA. He gave 43 years of his life to the service of the United States in her Marines from 1950 to 1993. He served two tours as an enlisted man during the Korean War. When I met him, he was the Commanding Officer of USMC Officer Candidates' School as a full Colonel. He had held every enlisted or officer rank from Private to Colonel with the exception of Sergeant Major across those 43 years.

Colonel Fox was a Marine legend when I met him. His legend comes from his actions during the Vietnam War on February 22, 1969 when, after his company found itself under heavy attack and he was twice wounded, he nonetheless led from the front, refused medical attention, and inspired his Marines to victory. And yes, for his courage and leadership that day he received our Nation's highest honor.

From Medal of Honor Citations for the Vietnam War (A-L):


Rank and organization: Captain, U.S. Marine Corps, Company A, 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, 3d Marine Division. Place and date: Quang Tri Province, Republic of Vietnam, 22 February 1969. Entered service at: Leesburg, Va. Born: 30 September 1931, Herndon, Va. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as commanding officer of Company A, in action against the enemy in the northern A Shau Valley. Capt. (then 1st Lt.) Fox's company came under intense fire from a large well concealed enemy force. Capt. Fox maneuvered to a position from which he could assess the situation and confer with his platoon leaders. As they departed to execute the plan he had devised, the enemy attacked and Capt. Fox was wounded along with all of the other members of the command group, except the executive officer. Capt. Fox continued to direct the activity of his company. Advancing through heavy enemy fire, he personally neutralized 1 enemy position and calmly ordered an assault against the hostile emplacements. He then moved through the hazardous area coordinating aircraft support with the activities of his men. When his executive officer was mortally wounded, Capt. Fox reorganized the company and directed the fire of his men as they hurled grenades against the enemy and drove the hostile forces into retreat. Wounded again in the final assault, Capt. Fox refused medical attention, established a defensive posture, and supervised the preparation of casualties for medical evacuation. His indomitable courage, inspiring initiative, and unwavering devotion to duty in the face of grave personal danger inspired his marines to such aggressive action that they overcame all enemy resistance and destroyed a large bunker complex. Capt. Fox's heroic actions reflect great credit upon himself and the Marine Corps, and uphold the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service. 

Just one of the times I met Colonel Fox, he was wearing his Service "C" uniform (other times he was wearing utilities). I couldn't help but have my eyes drawn to the pale blue ribbon with the five white stars, mounted above all his other decorations. I'm honored to have had the chance to salute this fine officer, and to have shaken the hand of a true American hero. I'll never forget meeting him.

Colonel Wesley L. Fox is still living.

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