#VeteranOfTheDay Marine Corps Veteran John Fales


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Today’s #VeteranOfTheDay is Marine Corps Veteran John Fales. John served during the Vietnam War.

John was born in 1940 and would eventually become known as the colorful, combat-wounded Marine who worked tirelessly for over two decades helping military personnel and Veterans.

After being kicked out of Catholic high school, John joined the Marine Corps. During basic training at Parris Island, he graduated with his G.E.D. During his Marine Corps career, John served in Lebanon and Vietnam. He served his first tour in Vietnam from 1957-1963 and re-enlisted for a second tour in 1966. While serving as a Marine forward artillery spotter during his second tour, John lost his sight during an ambush. He retired from the Marines with disability in 1966.

Following his medical discharge, John returned to New York where he earned his bachelor’s degree from Saint John’s University and his Masters in Education from Hofstra University.

From 1982-1985, John authored the “Sgt. Shaft” column in the Stars and Stripes newspaper. This column drew from his wry sense of humor, empathy for the underdog, and strong love of family, country, and most importantly- his fellow Veterans. After a revival in 1991, his final column for the newspaper was in 2013.

In 1985, John and two fellow blinded veterans started the Blinded American Veterans Foundation (BAVF) which focuses on research, rehabilitation, and re-employment for blinded Veterans. The BAVF is profound for research, information dissemination, and educational efforts.

John was a dominant figure on Capitol Hill for his advocacy and commitment to improving benefits for Veterans. He assisted in establishing the Vietnam Veterans Leadership Program which helps Veterans struggling to find work or dealing problems associated with their Vietnam War experience.

John’s service decorations include Purple Heart, Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Armed Forces Expeditionary Service Medal, New York State Conspicuous Service Medal, Presidential Unit Citation, Combat Action Ribbon, and South Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. In June 2005, the Marine Corps honored him at a sunset parade at the Iwo Jima Memorial. Former Secretary of Homeland Security and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, a Vietnam Veteran and friend of John described him as “relentless” in his commitment to improving the lives of Veterans.

John lived by the motto, “If it helps one Veteran, it’s effective.” His life truly reflected this belief. John passed away on November 26th of heart failure. He was 78.

We honor his service.


Graphic by Emma Catlett. Emma is a sophomore at Baylor University and is studying Political Science with a French minor and Pre-Law concentration.

Author

Wilson Miles

Wilson is a Senior studying International Relations at Linfield College. He is currently a writing intern at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.