Vietnam Medal of Honor Recipient, 1stSgt. David McNerney, passed away early Sunday morning at the VA hospital in Houston after a months long battle with cancer. He was 79.
Viewing will be Friday, Oct. 15 from 3 to 9 p.m. at the Sterling White Funeral Home, 11011 Crosby Lynchburg Road (also called FM 2100 Road), Highlands, TX. Rosary will be at 7 p.m.
Funeral services will be held Saturday at noon at Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 915 Runneburg Road, Crosby, TX.
Full military honors will be rendered immediately after the funeral at the Houston National Cemetery, 0410 Veterans Memorial Drive, Houston, Texas.
David requested that in lieu of flowers, donations may be made to the Wounded Warrior Project - http://www.woundedwarriorproject.org/.
His passing leaves the number of surviving Recipients at 86.
We here at the Southern Command and Gainesville’s Medal of Honor Host City Program have lost a great friend… a kind and quiet man who always wore his uniform to talk with school children “because it gives them something to ask questions about.”
His constant aide-de-camp for the last decade was Gerald Blankenship (below left shown with our mayor, Glenn Loch), a neighbor, retired law enforcement officer and Navy submariner who devoted much of his life to his friend for many years. Gerald and his wife, Suzanne, cared for David on a daily basis toward the end; they are wonderful people, friends and great patriots.
One of our group here, Major Tom, issued a fine eulogy that fits David well:
David was special.
He was special to the program and to everyone who knew him. He was a gentle man who rose to accept the challenge of combat and beyond. He did not brag, he did not wear his heroism on his sleeve, he was not vain, he was a real hero.I will never forget him and his kindness.
He was a real hero to me off and on the battle field. I was honored to be able to call him friend. David is a role model for all of us.
David came by his courage and combat audacity honestly; born in Lowell, Massachusetts to a military family, his father, Edward McNerney, was a decorated World War I veteran, having earned the Distinguished Service Cross, Silver Star, and two Purple Hearts. Two of his siblings served in World War II and a third was a fighter pilot in Vietnam.
In 1949 he enlisted in the United States Navy and served two tours in Korea during the Korean War before his discharge in 1952. He briefly attended the University of Houston, but disliked college life and joined the Army after seeing a recruiting poster on campus.
In 1961, McNerney married Parmelia Marie Moeckel; the couple had no children. Parmelia died in 2003 after a long illness.
McNerney’s men of Company A, 1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division operating in the Central Highlands near the Cambodian border were convinced that the no nonsense senior staff NCO was a hard-assed lifer who insisted on making them miserable with incessant training and a zero tolerance for mistakes.
On March 21, 1967, they came to understand that all along he had been preparing them and saving lives with his two-tours of experience as a military adviser to the South Vietnamese Army.
On that afternoon, he and his company were dropped by helicopter into Polei Doc to search for a missing reconnaissance team. The unit’s advance the next morning stalled by a North Vietnamese force three times Co. A’s size.
McNerney immediately moved to the lead element to assess the situation and was wounded by a grenade. In quick succession the company commander and forward observer were killed, leaving McNerney to assume command. He began rallying his men and organizing the defense.
He called in air strikes to within 65 feet of his own position and marked the unit's location by climbing a tree, in full view of the enemy, tying an identification marker to the upper branches.
Braving heavy fire to collect demolition equipment which had been dropped early in the battle, he blew up trees in order to clear a landing site for a helicopter extraction. Despite his wounds, he refused to be evacuated himself and stayed with the company until a new commander arrived the next day. For his actions during the battle, McNerney would be awarded the Medal of Honor.
He returned to the United States in August 1967 and worked as an instructor at Fort Dix, New Jersey. During a ceremony at the White House on September 19, 1968, he was formally presented with the Medal of Honor by President Lyndon B. Johnson. He volunteered for a fourth tour in Vietnam before retiring as a first sergeant in December 1969.
David was one of the first Recipients to support our program starting a decade ago. He missed one annual event in that time… but only because a hurricane and flood prevented him from getting to the airport. Occasionally he would come up on his own…. he and Gerald driving virtually all of Texas south to north for just for a two or three-day visit.
Our small community adopted him as one of “our” Recipients. He was a favorite of grade schoolers and women doted on him because he was quiet and gentlemanly and they loved to embarrass him with genuine affection.
He apologized for not being able to accept our last invitation… to attend the dedication of the Host City lobby in our civic center which features personal articles that he’s donated for our display cases. He was simply too ill and only has a few weeks to live.
Every year I prepare a short in-memoriam video to honor the Recipients who have died in the previous year; it never gets any easier, just more sad. I’d hoped I wouldn’t have to include “our David” so soon.