This is a story that will tug at your heart. Did you know that there were two friends, born five months apart, who were in the same kindergarten class at Public School 76 in Woodside who were Vietnam War heroes, Marines who both were awarded the Medal of Honor?
One is Robert Emmett O’Malley who was seriously wounded saving the lives of fellow Marines in Vietnam, came home alive and who currently lives in Texas.
His buddy was Thomas Patrick Noonan who also saved the lives of fellow Marines but was killed on the battlefield. He received the Medal of Honor posthumously.
This is the account of Robert O’Malley. It is recorded that he acted with complete disregard for his personal safety as he raced across an open rice paddy with his rifle and jumped into a trench where many Viet Cong were firing at his men and O’Malley killed eight of the enemy. He then reloaded his gun, continued to fire at the enemy and he managed to personally evacuate several wounded Marines to waiting helicopters. He continued to fire at the enemy as wounded Marines were evacuated and though wounded himself he didn’t board a plane to safety until all the wounded Marines were evacuated. Now that’s a hero!
Robert O’Malley is the first living Marine of the Vietnam War to win the Medal of Honor. As I wrote this account of Robert O’Malley I wanted to stand up and applaud his focused bravery while he himself was seriously wounded.
His buddy, Tommy Noonan’s story is very similar and this is how it is memorialized. He served as a fire team leader when they came under heavy fire from a well concealed enemy unit as they descended a treacherous muddy hill. Four Marines were wounded and marooned under continuous enemy fire. Noonan struggled toward the wounded Marines, then he dashed across the hazardous terrain and commenced dragging the most seriously wounded man away from the fire swept area. Although seriously wounded Noonan continued to drag his fellow Marine to safety but was mortally wounded before he could reach his destination.
A great story to tell and to know that two guys from Woodside served us so valiantly during the Vietnam War and were both awarded the coveted Medal of Honor. It goes without saying that all the heroes of the Vietnam War deserve our applause for risking their lives so we can live free as Americans in this great country.
We thank JPCA Second Vice President, John Killcommons, for bringing this heartwarming story to us so we could tell it to all our Juniper Berry readers.
Note: Kindergarten class of P.S. 76 in Woodside in 1949 showing Robert Emmett O’Malley and Thomas Patrick Noonan. Photo was featured in NY Daily News on May 27, 2012 for article written by columnist Denis Hamill.