Born in Louisville, John was a professional soldier from 1950 to 1976 and a distinguished veteran of close combat in Korea and Vietnam. As a non-commissioned officer, he served with the 1st Cavalry Division in Korea. He earned his commission in 1962 through Infantry Officer Candidate School at Fort Benning, Ga. As a captain, he was Troop Commander of A Troop and later Headquarters Troop of the 11th Armored Cavalry Regiment in Vietnam in 1966-67 and participated in major combat operations including the Iron Triangle and missions along the Cambodian border. Promoted to major, he returned to Vietnam in 1969-70 as a Military Advisor and Foreign Service Specialist in the Mekong Delta. His decorations include three Bronze Stars with the V device for valor, two Army Commendation Medals with the V device, two Vietnamese Crosses of Gallantry for valor (Gold Palm and Bronze Star,) and the Purple Heart for wounds received in combat. He also earned a Combat Infantry Badge (CIB) during his second tour in Vietnam, unusual for an armor officer. Stateside, he earned two Distinguished Service Medals, one for the development of the “Bailey Bracket,” a device that allowed certain tank gunnery operations to be completed at night, pioneering work that is standard on tank sights today. He retired in 1976 at the rank of major.
He was a founder and charter member of Four Rivers Chapter 0585 of the Military Order of the Purple Heart and a former Kentucky State Commander of the organization.
John joined the army with a ninth grade education but eventually earned a bachelor’s degree in history and political science from William Carey College in Hattiesburg, Miss., and a master’s degree in human resources from Murray State University.
John and his loving wife Jean, Richard, La., married 61 years ago as teenagers and survived the rigors of army life traveling the world with a growing number of kids in tow. They were stationed in Germany twice and enjoyed visiting much of Europe. In retirement, their love for travel continued with trips to Ireland, Mexico, Canada, the Caribbean, and RV camping as “snowbirds” in southern Texas for many years. John and Jean also made annual trips to their beloved Louisiana to enjoy family, friends, and great food.
John’s health was eventually compromised by a failing heart but he was also a 16-year survivor of a liver transplant. His transplant history was textbook and he never suffered a rejection making him somewhat of a star of the transplant department at Vanderbilt.
John is survived by his wife Jean, son Dennis and Lora Bailey of Evansville, Ind., daughter Dawn and Larry Whitt of Calvert City, daughter Nannette and Harold Frizzell of Calvert City, daughter Sherry and David Randall of Benton, daughter Suzanne and Pat Padgett of Owensboro, along with 17 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. He is also survived by his adored dogs Missy and Josey and by the guys at Hardees in Draffenville.
The funeral was held March 27 at St Pius X Catholic Church in Calvert City, where John was a member of the parish for 37 years. Interment followed at Calvert City Cemetery with military honors.
Memorial contributions may be given to the Marshall County Free Clinic, P.O. Box 793, Benton, KY 42025. Online condolences may be made at www.collierfuneralhome.com.