Featured Marine – John C McKay

Name: John C. McKay
Dates in Vietnam: Summer 1967, Dec 1968 – Apr 1969
MOS: 0302 – Basic Infantry Officer

Rank:  Colonel

Colonel McKay enlisted in the Marine Corps in January 1962.  He was part of the designated landing force for the envisioned invasion of Cuba in the Fall of 1962.  He was appointed from the ranks to the U. S. Naval Academy in 1964.  He served two tours in Vietnam, and was twice wounded, incurring both wounds while serving with “Hotel”, 2/5.  Col McKay was privileged to serve under company commanders Capts. Ron Drez, USMC, Gary E. Brown, USMC, and Bill Fite, USMC.

While recovering from wounds he was carried on the roles of Marine Barracks, USNS Treasure Island, San Francisco.  Subsequent assignments included Staff Platoon Commander (SPC) at The Basic School, Quantico, Virginia; Olmsted Scholar at the Universidad Complutense, Madrid, Spain; Company Commander, 3rd MARDIV; HQMC; U. S. Naval Attaché, Republic of El Salvador; commanding officer of 1st Battalion, 9th Marines; Crisis Management Officer, HQ NATO, Brussels, Belgium.  During the latter assignment, Col McKay was seconded to the United Nations Protective Force (UNPROFOR), under French General Phillipe Morillon, in Sarajevo, former Yugoslavia.  Lastly, Col McKay was commanding officer, JTF-160, USNS Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.  During his tenure as CO, JTF-160, Col McKay at that time was the highest-ranking U. S. official conducting sanction negotiations with the Cuban government.

Retired, Col McKay was involved with the CIA in Palestine, and South America.  Civil sector employment entailed positions in West Africa and Jerusalem.  He was with DEA as a special assistance to Director of Intelligence, concentrating on Mexican drug cartels.  Until the pandemic, Col McKay was an Adjunct Professor at California State University, Sacramento.  He is currently involved in bringing to justice alleged perpetrators of war crimes committed during the El Salvadorian civil war.

John is our most decorated Hotel 2/5 Vietnam Veteran and highest ranking USMC officer attending our reunions. He is greatly respected and we are honored when John and his lovely wife Margo attend our reunions each year.  He and Margo have three sons, all U.S. military veterans.  John is what we call a “lifer” in the military. Although officially retired, he has served many years in the service of our country and continues to provide consulting services on U.S. National Security and international matters.

He is a respected diplomatic consultant and writer.  He is a bilingual English-Spanish speaker with a working knowledge of French.  Col McKayis a published author and public speaker.

John’s military decorations include:
 Defense Superior Service Medal (3 awards)
 Legion of Merit
 Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V”
 Purple Heart Medal (2 awards)
 Meritorious Service Medal
 Joint Service Commendation Medal
 Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with Combat “V”
 Combat Action Ribbon
 Joint Meritorious Unit Award
 Navy Unit Commendation (2 awards)
 Meritorious Unit Commendation
 National Defense Service Medal (2 awards)
 Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal (2 awards)
 Vietnam Service Medal with 3 Stars
 Armed Forces Service Medal
 Humanitarian Service Medal
 Sea Service Deployment Ribbon (2 awards)
 Navy and Marine Corps Overseas Service Ribbon
 Republic of Vietnam Meritorious Unit Citation (Gallantry Cross Color with Palm)
 Republic of Vietnam Meritorious Unit Citation (Civil Actions First Class Color with Palm)
 Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal
 Inter-American Defense Board Medal with Silver Star
 El Salvador Military Medal of Gold {Medilla de Oro}
 Coast Guard Meritorious Unit Citation

You can read more about him at his website at: http://coljohnmckay.com/ He provides effective, succinct written commentary on civil-military relations, social issues concerning U. S. military forces, leadership, history, travel, and other contemporary topical issues. Col McKay’s experience in higher education, as lecturer and institutional board member, reflects a lifelong interest in and participation in the preparation of the youths of the nation. You can contact him at his email: john@coljohnmckay.com .

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