Local hero expires David McNerney, received Medal of Honor

David Herbert McNerney

David Herbert McNerney, Medal of Honor recipient, age 79, passed away on October 10, 2010 at the VA Medical Center in Houston, Texas. He is preceded in death by his wife of 42 years Parmelia “Charlotte”, his parents Edward and Helen McNerney, his brother Edward and wife Mary, his sister Ruth McNerney Kress and husband John. David was born on June 2, 1931 in Lowell, Massachusetts, but moved to Houston, Texas in the early 1940’s. David graduated from St. Thomas High School and joined the Navy in 1949 to follow in his brother Edward’s footsteps of service to his country.
1stSgt. McNerney humbly summarized his prestigious military years in the Army by saying “I was a professional soldier.” As a U.S. Army Infantryman, he was the recipient of the Medal of Honor, the U.S. military’s highest decoration for valor. He also was awarded numerous other awards.
1st Sgt. McNerney served his country for forty-six years in the U.S. Navy, the Army and the Customs Service.

He was proud that he continued a remarkable family tradition of outstanding military service. His father Edward McNerney served Infantry Division during World War I receiving the Distinguished Service Cross. His older sister Ruth McNerney Kress was an Army Nurse, and his brother Edward McNerney served in the Submarine Service on the USS Dace during World War II. His brother Richard P. McNerney, who served in the Air Force, received the Distinguished Flying Cross in Vietnam. David once observed about his family, “We all seem to feel a deep obligation to the United States—probably from our father, who didn’t say much, but who certainly set an example as an American.” Several nieces and nephews have continued this proud tradition.
During his career, McNerney served four tours of duty in Vietnam as both an advisor and as a 1st Sgt. of an Infantry Company spanning the years from 1962 through 1969. In a ceremony at the White House, President Lyndon Johnson awarded the Medal of Honor to 1st Sgt. McNerney on September 19, 1968 for action that took place on March 22, 1967, near Polei Doc, Republic of Vietnam while he was 1st Sergeant of A Company, 1st Battalion, and 8th Infantry Battalion of the 4th Infantry Division. His company of one hundred eight soldiers was on patrol to search and destroy enemy forces in the area when the company was caught in a ferocious ambush by a North Vietnamese Army Battalion numbering approximately eight hundred. 1st Sgt. McNerney’s company would have been overrun had it not been for his leadership. After all of the officers had been killed except for one who was severely injured, 1st Sgt McNerney took command exposing himself to enemy fire several times during the company’s defense. When relief arrived, A Company had suffered twenty-two killed and forty –three wounded. Although 1st Sgt. had been wounded by a grenade, McNerney refused evacuation until his replacement arrived one day after the initial ambush.
After volunteering for a 4th tour of duty in Vietnam, 1st Sgt. McNerney saw some of the most intense combat of his entire time in Vietnam. 1st Sgt. retired from the Army at the end of his twentieth year of military service in December of 1969. 1stSgt. Mc Nerney continued his distinguished career of service to the United States in the U.S. Custom Service becoming a Senior Inspector in January of 1987. He was known as an industrious, persistent and patriotic customs employee. His fondest memories of the Customs Service were when he served as a member of the Houston Seaport Contraband Enforcement Team.
1st Sgt. McNerney continued to serve his country and community in retirement with his involvement with the JROTC in Crosby, Texas, the local civic groups, and as a leader in the Crosby American Legion Post 658. The documentary Honor in the Valley of Tears recounts the story of McNerney’s unit in Vietnam and details the actions culminating in his receiving the Medal of Honor. The film premiered in May, 2010 at the G.I. Film Festival in Washington D.C.
David McNerney was a man of contrasts and contradictions. While he was a dedicated soldier and a fierce warrior in the defense of the United States, he was also a beloved husband, a brother, and a doting uncle who took great pride in his nieces and nephews and was keenly interested in their successes and accomplishments and served as a mentor to many. One thing is certain: David McNerney loved his country and loved his family.
David McNerney is survived by his brother Richard P. McNerney and wife Patricia, sister Susan Mauro and husband Steve and by seventeen nieces and nephews, twenty-three great nieces and nephews and two great- grand nephews, and his close friends, Gerald and Suzanne Blankenship, whose friendship and caring David’s family gratefully acknowledges. David’s advice to all of us was “To protect your name” which is legacy that his family will try to live up to. He is most importantly survived by “His Boys” from the 4th Infantry division. He held them in high regard and considered them the sons he never had. To the men of the 4th Division, especially Col. Sauers, the family is ever in your debt for your support of David and enrichment of our lives in the process.