Story and photo by Staff Sgt. Henry W. Marris III
3rd Brigade Combat Team Public Affairs Office, 4th Infantry Division
WASHINGTON — Inside a display case in the National Stamp Salon wing of the William H. Gross Stamp Gallery lays a replica of a medal that was presented by President Lyndon B. Johnson to 1st Sgt. David H. McNerney in 1968.
The award, a replica of the Medal of Honor presented to 1st Sgt. David H. McNerney for his actions in a battle near Polei
Doc, Republic of Vietnam, was enshrined into the Smithsonian National Postal Museum during a ceremony Sept. 22. The museum’s director and McNerney’s Family coordinated the stamp donation and enshrinement of the replica medal. The actual Medal of Honor presented to McNerney is on display in the 4th Infantry Division museum.
Many of McNerney’s Family and former Soldiers who fought beside him in Vietnam attended the ceremony to pay tribute to his legacy.
McNerney was the first sergeant for Company A, 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, when he received the Medal of Honor. During Vietnam, the battalion was part of 1st Brigade, 4th Inf. Div., but currently falls under 3rd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 4th Inf. Div.
Lt. Col. Allen Leth, commander 1st Bn., 8th Inf. Reg., 3rd ABCT, said it was an honor to represent current Soldiers of the battalion, and provide a link to the living history of the battalion.
“It was an incredible honor to be invited by the McNerney Family and the Company A crew,” said Leth. “They welcomed us into the ceremony and let us take part in it. I’m humbled by the fact that I am part of that legacy now.”
As part of the enshrinement ceremony, Leth and Command Sgt. Maj. Wray Gabelmann, senior enlisted leader, 1st Bn., 8th Inf. Reg., 3rd ABCT, presented framed battalion and Company A guidons to Allen Kane, director of the Smithsonian National Postal Museum, to be included with the McNerney exhibit.
Kathleen Hanson, McNerney’s niece, said he had been an avid stamp collector his entire life and it was during a visit prior to his death that he made the decision to share his collection with the postal museum. She said he had viewed incomplete collections that he could help with completing and this started the process of leaving his collection to the museum. The end result was the ceremony to enshrine the replica medal.
“To have his stamps here (at the museum), it helps us connect the dots to the Family, his military history and his passion for stamp collecting,” Hanson said. “We are grateful that his collection is now here.”
Bob Babcock, president of the National 4th Infantry Division Association, a Vietnam veteran himself, and friend to McNerney over the last decade, was master of ceremonies. He said it was important for people to see beyond the Medal of Honor, and see that McNerney was more than that.
“David McNerney was one of the most amazing men I had ever met in my life,” Babcock said. “I have said to many people, ‘Out of a crowd of 100, he would be the last person you would pick to be a Medal of Honor recipient.’ But once you got to know him, you knew there would not be anyone you would rather have by your side than David McNerney.”