Kenneth Lee Worley was born on April 27, 1948 in Farmington, New Mexico. He was orphaned during his early teens, and later lived with an aunt in California. Worley’s living conditions were impoverished and he left school to work as a truck driver in agriculture. After suffering a workplace injury, he was taken in by Don and Rose Feyerherm of Modesto; they became his surrogate family.
Worley volunteered and enlisted in the United States Marine Corps on July 14, 1967. After completing recruit and advanced infantry training, he was posted to the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment for combat with the 1st Marine Division in Vietnam. Prior to leaving for war, he was promoted to Private First Class.
He arrived in Vietnam on November 24, 1967. He served as a rifleman and with the battalion headquarters and was promoted to Lance Corporal on May 1, 1968. On August 12, 1968 – 45 years ago today – he was a machine gunner with Company L of 3/7 Marines. His unit was secure for the night in an occupied house when the Marines were awakened with an alarm call that an enemy infiltrator had thrown grenades into the building. One landed near Lance Corporal Worley, and he placed his body between the explosive and his comrades, and thus received our Nation’s highest honor.
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Rank and Organization: Lance Corporal, U.S. Marine Corps, 3d Battalion, 7th Marines, 1st Marine Division (Rein), FMF. Place and Date: Bo Ban, Quang Nam Province, Republic of Vietnam, 12 August 1968. Citation: For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving as a machine gunner with Company L, 3d Battalion, in action against enemy forces. After establishing a night ambush position in a house in the Bo Ban, Hamlet of Quang Nam Province, security was set up and the remainder of the patrol members retired until their respective watch. During the early morning hours the marines were abruptly awakened by the platoon leader’s warning that “grenades” had landed in the house. Fully realizing the inevitable result of his actions, L/Cpl. Worley, in a valiant act of heroism, instantly threw himself upon the grenade nearest him and his comrades, absorbing with his body, the full and tremendous force of the explosion. Through his extraordinary initiative and inspiring valor in the face of almost certain death, he saved his comrades from serious injury and possible loss of life although 5 of his fellow marines incurred minor wounds as the other grenades exploded. L/Cpl. Worley’s gallant actions upheld the highest traditions of the Marine Corps and the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.