Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

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March 18, 2014

Setting the record straight


Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — During the initial review, investigators found that other minority soldiers who had received the Distinguished Service Cross appeared to meet the criteria for a Medal of Honor. Congress amended the directive to allow those soldiers to be considered for the upgraded honor.

Leonard, a recipient of the Distinguished Service Cross after World War II, wasn't Hispanic, Jewish or African American. His file, however, was evaluated by investigators during the review, who determined that Leonard was deserving of the Medal of Honor for his actions on the morning of Nov. 7, 1944 near St. Die, France. 

With his platoon being decimated by enemy fire, Leonard advanced, killing two snipers and several German machine gun crews. Despite being stunned by a bazooka blast, he continued to lead the remaining eight men in his platoon until they captured their objective, a German roadblock.

Leonard's daughter, Lockport native Patricia Kennedy, received the medal for her father from Obama.

The New York State Assembly passed a resolution commemorating Leonard yesterday, Assemblywoman Jane L. Corwin said in a press release. 

The three surviving recipients — Vietnam veterans Jose Rodela, Melvin Morris and Santiago Erevia — received a prolonged standing ovation at Obama's side, their faces set in somber acknowledgement of the honor.

Rodela, now of San Antonio, was a 31-year-old company commander of a Special Forces strike group on Sept. 1, 1969, in Phuoc Long Province, Vietnam, when he and his company of Cambodian soldiers whom he had helped recruit came under fire from North Vietnamese Army troops.

According to his Medal of Honor citation and supporting documents, the battle lasted 18 hours and 11 men in his company were killed and 33 others wounded.

The citation states that late in the battle, Rodela "was the only member of his company who was moving and he began to run from one position to the next, checking for casualties and moving survivors into different positions in an attempt to form a stable defense line. Throughout the battle, in spite of his wounds, Rodela repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire to attend to the fallen and eliminate an enemy rocket position."

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