By Dan McGrath
For an “ordinary guy,” Corporal John Fardy exhibited extraordinary courage at the Battle for Okinawa during World War II.
Corporal Fardy, a 1940 Leo High School graduate, absorbed the full impact of an enemy grenade he dived on, sparing members of his platoon certain injury and possible death during fierce, close-in fighting on Okinawa in May 1945. He died of his wounds the next day. The next year, he was posthumously awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor, the nation’s highest military honor, for uncommon valor.
In the belief that Corporal Fardy’s heroism has gone largely unrecognized, alums Jim Furlong and Ray Siegel, both members of Leo’s Class of 1965, spearheaded an effort to honor him. The unveiling of a Fardy memorial was the centerpiece of of Leo’s annual Veterans Observance, which took place in the Leo courtyard on Friday, Nov. 3 and drew more than 50 alums, many of them Veterans. The courtyard that’s home to the Fardy Memorial and Leo’s existing memorial to its 75 war dead will henceforth be known as the Corporal John P. Fardy Memorial Courtyard.
Furlong, a decorated Vietnam vet who received the Distinguished Service Cross for his own heroism, gave a stirring speech noting how Corporal Fardy’s selfless act was a manifestation of Leo’s Facta non Verba motto: Deeds Not Words.
“In researching these heroes, I was struck by the fact that nearly off of them would be considered ordinary people who did extraordinary things for the sake of others,” Furlong said. “That surely describes Corporal Fardy.”
Corporal Fardy’s niece, Marcie Dillon, and her husband Mike Dillon, a former Army Captain, were special guests at the ceremony. Mike Dillon read the Defense Department citation describing Corporal Fardy’s actions as Medal-of-Honor worthy. Fardy is the only Leo graduate to receive the nation’s highest military honor.
A Marine Corps unit from the Marines’ Chicago recruiting station presented colors. The world-renowned Leo Choir led the crowd in the singing of the National Anthem, God Bless America and, of course, the Leo Fight Song at the conclusion of the ceremony.
The laying of a wreath at the foot of the Veterans Memorial took on added significance with the addition of two names. Leo alums Leonard Roberts ’65 and William T. Walsh Jr. ’66 were killed in action in Vietnam, but school officials were unaware of that fact when the Memorial was installed. That oversight has been corrected.
“Recognizing our veterans is one of the most important things we do at Leo,” school President Dan McGrath said. “It’s our honor to honor them.”