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US Navy names future destroyer after Medal of Honor recipient Thomas G. Kelley

Illustration: US Navy file photo of destroyer USS Paul Ignatius (DDG 117) in Kiel, Germany

The US Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV) Carlos Del Toro announced during the Surface Navy Association Symposium that future Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer DDG-140 will be named USS Thomas G. Kelley (DDG 140).

The future USS Thomas G. Kelley will honor retired Captain Thomas G. Kelley, a Medal of Honor recipient. The name selection follows the tradition of naming destroyers after US naval leaders and heroes.

In 2020, former Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer announced his intention to name a ship after Kelley but had yet to dedicate the name to an assigned hull number. Today, Del Toro assigns the name to DDG-140, which was appropriated in the fiscal year 2023 budget.

Kelley was born in 1939 and grew up in Boston. He graduated from the College of the Holy Cross in 1960 and was commissioned in the Navy.

His early assignments as a Surface Warfare Officer included time aboard USS Pandemus (ARL-18), USS Davis (DD-937), and USS Stickell (DD-888). Kelley then volunteered to serve in Vietnam as a lieutenant commanding River Assault Division 152. On June 15, 1969, Kelley led river assault craft boats when they fell under attack. Kelley, while severely wounded, continued to protect and lead his men to safety. For this gallant effort, he was awarded the Medal of Honor. Kelley, despite his injuries, continued his naval career, taking on the position of executive officer of USS Sample (DE-1048) and commanding officer of USS Lang (FF-1060). While serving, Kelley earned his master’s degree in management from the Naval Post Graduate School and completed the Armed Forces Staff College course in Norfolk, VA.

Kelley retired from naval service as a Captain after thirty years, ending his tour as the director of legislation in the Bureau of Naval Personnel. After his military service, Kelley became the Massachusetts Department of Veterans’ Services commissioner and was named Secretary of the Department in 2003. In 2011, Kelley retired from public service and focused on charitable pursuits. He is close with the Medal of Honor Society, previously serving as president, Holy Cross’ O’Callahan Society, Arlington National Cemetery, the Homebase Program which treats veterans and active military with the hidden wounds of war, in partnership with the Boston Redsox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital. He also serves on the board of directors of the USS Constitution Museum.