U.S. Navy Sec. Carlos Del Toro has announced that a future Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, like these seen in Yokosuka, Japan, in 2021, will be named after Medal of Honor winner Capt. Thomas Gunning Kelley. U.S. Navy photo by Ryo Isobe
Jan. 13 (UPI) -- The U.S. Navy says a new guided missile destroyer will be named for a Vietnam War officer who led his troops to safety despite being wounded.
Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro said in a statement Thursday that the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer DDG-140 will carry the name of Medal of Honor winner Capt. Thomas Gunning Kelley.
"It is with great admiration and great pride that I am announcing the naming of the DDG-140 after Captain (retired) Thomas Gunning Kelley," said Del Toro. "May we all, especially the future men and women assigned to this ship, always be inspired by Kelley's brilliant leadership, bold initiative, and resolute determination."
According to the Navy, Kelley was born in 1939 and grew up in Boston.
On June 15, 1969, Kelley commanded a River Assault Division and led boats on the Ong Muong Canal in Kien Hoa Province when they were attacked by Viet Cong.
While severely wounded in the head by shrapnel and unable to move, Kelley shouted orders to his troops and continued to direct his men to safety. For his valor, he won the Medal of Honor.
"It is a tremendous honor and I am truly humbled, especially as a Surface Warfare Sailor," said Kelley in a statement. "I trust that those who sail in this ship will be reminded of service to their shipmates and that they will be carrying on a tradition greater than themselves."
Following 30 years of service, Kelley became a Massachusetts Department of Veterans' Services commissioner and was named Secretary of the Department in 2003.
In 2011, Kelley retired from public service. He serves on the board of directors of the U.S.S. Constitution Museum.
According to the Navy, the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers are the backbone of the U.S. Navy's surface fleet and are built around the Aegis Combat System.
The ships use stealth techniques and are highly capable multi-mission ships with a wide range of war-fighting capabilities.