WASHINGTON (KDKA) — A soldier from Lawrence County has been awarded the Medal of Honor more than 40 years after he died in combat.
Army Specialist Leslie Sabo, Jr., was killed while protecting his fellow soldiers from an ambush in Cambodia during the Vietnam War.
Paperwork for the award was completed at that time, but it was lost and did not resurface until decades later.
Led by the President and First Lady, the East Room of the White House was filled with guests, military brass, members of Congress and Vietnam Veterans – all to salute a fallen hero from Ellwood City.
“The Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration that America can bestow,” Obama said.
Leslie’s widow, Rose Sabo Brown, and family members joined the President to recognize a man whose valor nearly went unnoticed.
“Today, four decades after Leslie’s sacrifice, we can set the record straight,” Obama said.
Sabo was just 22 years old when he died saving the lives of comrades in Cambodia.
His Bravo Company was ambushed by North Vietnamese on Mother’s Day of 1970, prompting Sabo to charge the enemy, killing several and drawing fire away from his comrades.
When an unexploded grenade was tossed at them, he threw it back then jumped on a wounded comrade to shield him from the blast.
Wounded himself, he charged the enemy bunker, taking several hits, but continuing to crawl towards the bunker.
“He grabbed a grenade and he pulled the pin,” Obama said. “It said he held that grenade and didn’t throw it until the last possible moment, knowing it would take his own life but knowing he could silence that bunker and he did.”
“He saved his comrades who meant more to him than life,” he continued.
The surviving comrades were recognized at the White House as well. Then with arms around Rose Sabo Brown, Obama presented the Medal of Honor posthumously to Leslie Sabo.
Holding back tears, she accepted the medal and spoke briefly on the White House lawn.
“I know a piece of cloth and a medal won’t bring him back, but my heart beams with pride for Leslie because he is finally receiving tribute for his sacrifices and bravery,” she said.