On Veterans Day, Thursday, Nov. 11, Saint Thomas Academy cadets will have the privilege of learning about service and sacrifice from Medal of Honor Recipient Cpt. Thomas G. Kelley, U.S. Navy (ret.) and U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
Kelley commanded the River Assault Division 152 of the Mobile Riverine Force in Vietnam during a deadly attack by the Viet Cong, which led to him sustaining major facial wounds and losing an eye. For his heroism, Pres. Richard Nixon awarded him the Medal of Honor in 1970.
Medals of Honor are awarded sparingly and are bestowed only to the bravest of the brave. Since it was first authorized in 1861, only 3,400 Medals of Honor have been awarded to members of any U.S. military branch, including the Coast Guard. There are only 66 living recipients.
Also during the assembly, the Academy will present the Fleming Alumni Veterans Award (Fleming Medal) to families of:
2nd Lt. Peter Troy ’66, U.S. Army, killed in action in Vietnam in 1969 at the age of 21.
Lt. Col. Dr. Jerome Hilger, STMA ’29, U.S. Army (ret.), who served the Army’s 26th General Hospital as a maxillofacial specialist during WWII.
The Fleming Medal is named for Capt. Richard Fleming STMA ’35, a recipient of the Medal of Honor and the Academy’s highest decorated graduate.
WHEN: Thursday, Nov. 11, 1:30 p.m.
WHERE: Saint Thomas Academy
Vincent J. Flynn Hall
949 Mendota Heights Road
Mendota Heights, Minn. 55120
WHO: Medal of Honor Recipient Capt. Thomas Kelley, U.S. Navy (ret.)
U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar
Families of Dr. Jerome Hilger STMA ’29 and Peter Troy ’66
Commandant of Cadets Col. Neil Hetherington, U.S. Army (ret.)
Honored veterans, active-duty personnel and guests
Saint Thomas Academy cadets, faculty, staff
Keynote speaker: Medal of Honor Recipient Capt. Thomas Kelley, U.S. Navy (ret.)
On June 15, 1969, Capt. Thomas Kelley, U.S. Navy (ret.), commanded the River Assault Division 152 of the Mobile Riverine Force in Vietnam, leading eight boats on a mission to extract an infantry company trapped on the Ong Muong Canal. During the mission, one of the armored troop carriers experienced a mechanical failure of a loading ramp. The convoy then came under attack by Viet Cong forces staged on 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, Kelley went to the exposed side of the cordon in direct line with the enemy's fire and ordered his unit to fire. An enemy rocket hit the coxswain's flat, the shell penetrating the thick armor plate and spraying shrapnel in all directions. Kelley sustained serious head wounds and yet continued directing his unit. Although unable to move or speak clearly, he succeeded in relaying his commands through one of his men until the enemy attack was silenced and the boats were able to move to an area of safety. Kelley gave the orders his men needed to carry out the mission after he was evacuated by medical helicopter. For his heroism, he was awarded the Medal of Honor in 1970 by Pres. Richard Nixon.
Despite losing an eye during the attack, Kelley remained on active duty until retiring with the rank of captain in 1990. After retiring from the Navy, Kelley worked as a civilian in the Department of Defense and later became commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Veterans Services. He became department secretary in 2003 and retired from public service in 2010.
Fleming Alumni Veterans Award Recipients:
2nd Lt. Peter Troy ’66, U.S. Army
The youngest of four boys to graduate from the Academy, Peter Troy was a member of the crack drill squad, played football and swam. He was the individual wrestling state champion in his weight class and was captain of the Cadet Wrestling team. Troy attended Marquette University for two years before enlisting in the U.S. Army. Following basic training, Troy was selected to enter Officer Training School and paratrooper training. His duty as 2nd lieutenant and unit commander of the 11th Light Infantry Brigade, 1st Battalion, 20th Infantry, B Company began Aug. 21, 1969. On the evening of Sept. 7, 1969, his unit came under rocket attack in the Quang Ngai province in South Vietnam. Troy sustained multiple fragmentation wounds and died. He was 21 years old. During his service, he was awarded the Purple Heart, Combat Infantryman Badge, Marksmanship Badge, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Army Presidential Unit Citation, Vietnam Gallantry Cross and Army Good Conduct Medal.
Lt. Col. Dr. Jerome Hilger STMA ’29, U.S. Army (ret.)
In his third year at St. Thomas College, Dr. Jerome Hilger STMA ’29 was commissioned a lieutenant in the U.S. Army Reserves and assigned to teach STMA cadets. His reserve officer pay helped him earn his doctorate at the University of Minnesota Medical School and complete his medical internship and residency to become an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist.
On June 12,1941, Hilger was commissioned a major in the Army’s medical corps. Following Pearl Harbor, he was called up for active duty and began training with the Army’s 26th General Hospital at Fort Sil, Okla., and later England, where Hilger received maxillofacial training from leading doctors in head and neck facial repairs. That training enabled Hilger to save many lives and repair countless injuries during his two theaters of war – in Operation Torch, the allied invasion of northern Africa; and in Bari, Italy, during the deadly attack of December 1943. He was the lone maxillofacial surgeon in the 26th General Hospital for much of his 3-year tour, which helped him hone his surgical skills and provided many opportunities to demonstrate frontline bravery that earned him the Bronze Star.
Following discharge from the Army in January 1946, Hilger practiced maxillofacial/ENT in Saint Paul, and trained and taught University of Minnesota graduate ENT doctors in maxillofacial and surgeries, and trauma techniques. His private practice grew into one of the largest and most highly respected maxillofacial practices in the country. He established and led multiple medical leadership societies, designed and built specialty facial testing and other leading-edge devices, designed a speech stimulator device, and trained technicians to assist cancer patients, who lost their speech abilities. He founded several companies that launched the first patient medical record systems. While chief of staff at St. Joseph Hospital in Saint Paul, Hilger was instrumental in the hospital’s physical and operational enhancements that resulted in it becoming a leading Upper Midwest care facility.