Weekly Columns

Arkansas has a long and proud history of supporting our nation’s defense. Our state is home to military installations, businesses and jobs that contribute to our national security and the protection of our nation’s servicemembers. It’s also where brave men and women learn to serve a cause higher than themselves. 

Sergeant Major (retired) John Canley a native of Caledonia, Arkansas in Union County was inspired to join the Marine Corps after watching the WWII movie the “Sands of Iwo Jima.” Using his brother’s birth certificate, he enlisted in the Marines, as a 15-year-old.  

At a White House ceremony earlier this month, President Donald Trump praised Canley’s “unmatched bravery” for saving “the lives of more than 20 marines” during the 1968 Battle of Hue in Vietnam. 

Canley recently received the Medal of Honor, the military’s highest and most prestigious decoration, for his valiant actions and courage in combat while serving as gunnery sergeant assigned to Company A, First Battalion, First Marines. 

While those who wear our nation’s uniform do not often seek recognition, awards or honors, they deserve nothing less than our public and private displays of appreciation for their service. They are often unassuming individuals who have done great things under extraordinary circumstances. Their stories of immense sacrifice, courage and service should be preserved as we can all learn from them.

The Arkansas Military Veterans’ Hall of Fame (AMVHOF) was created in 2011 to honor the service, sacrifice and accomplishments of Natural State veterans. The achievements of inductees are preserved in the Hall of Fame display in the state Capitol. This exhibit is a testament to the willingness of Arkansans to do their part to serve and defend our country and serves as inspiration for future generations.

The 15 inductees of the 2018 class come from all corners of the state and have served in conflicts from WWII through Operation Iraqi Freedom. This distinguished group of men and women have demonstrated selflessness in uniform and continued service to their communities.  

As the son of a Master Sergeant in the Air Force, I’m committed to veterans’ outreach. Members of this year’s class, including both current and former members of my staff, have demonstrated that devotion throughout their lives. Col (retired) Anita Deason’s hard work has led to hundreds of Arkansans being trained to collect the memories of our veterans for the Library of Congress Veterans History Project. Lt Col (retired) Steve Gray’s tireless devotion to veterans as a member of my team was known for, among other things, the many medal presentations he conducted throughout Arkansas. In retirement, he continues his commitment to his fellow veterans through his work as an active member of Arkansas’s veteran service organizations. 

Honoring the service, sacrifice and commitment of veterans with commendation medals, induction into the AMVHOF and other special events shows our appreciation for their immeasurable sacrifice. Emphasizing the stories of sacrifice and bravery exhibited by Arkansas veterans really is about preserving the people and the values that make the Natural State the best place to call home.