New Castle News

December 31, 2012

Top 10 Stories, Number 2: Nation, county honor a hero

David Burcham
New Castle News

NEW CASTLE — Rose Mary Sabo-Brown never forgot her hero.

And because of her steadfast commitment, Lawrence County will never forget him either.

Spc. 4 Leslie H. Sabo Jr. grew up in Ellwood City. He married Rose Mary on Sept. 13, 1969, eight months before he died protecting his fellow soldiers during a firefight May 10, 1970, in Cambodia. The attack by North Vietnamese troops killed seven fellow soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division.

Sabo killed several of the enemy and used his body to shield a wounded soldier. He crawled toward an enemy bunker and threw a grenade that silenced their guns. The blast killed the 22-year-old.

On May 15, President Obama presented the Medal of Honor to Sabo’s widow.

“This Medal of Honor is bestowed on a single soldier for his singular courage. But it speaks to the service of an entire generation, and to the sacrifice of so many military families,” the president said.

The award is conferred upon only those members of the nation’s armed forces who distinguish themselves through “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his or her life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in an action against an enemy of the United States.”

“Les was in the rear, and he could have stayed there. But those fighters were unloading on his brothers,” the president said. Even though he had been wounded by automatic weapons fire, Sabo “did something extraordinary,” Obama continued. “He began to crawl straight toward an enemy bunker, its machine guns blazing.”

Sabo was nominated for the Medal of Honor, but the request was lost.

“Four decades after Leslie’s sacrifice, we can set the record straight,” Obama said. “Leslie Sabo left behind a wife who adored him, a brother who loved him, parents who cherished him, and family and friends who admired him. But they never knew,” the president said. “For decades, they never knew their Les had died a hero. The fog of war, and paperwork that seemed to get lost in the shuffle, meant this story was almost lost to history.”

Sabo-Brown said her husband “was kind-hearted and would do anything for you.”

When she got the news of his death, she added, “My whole world stopped turning.” But she remained devoted to learning as much about his death as possible.

A day after Sabo was awarded the Medal of Honor, Army and Defense officials inducted him into the Pentagon’s Hall of Heroes.

Recognition for Sabo’s heroism continued through the year.

He was honored at a ceremony in Harrisburg’s Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Grove, behind the Capitol, which recognizes all of Pennsylvania’s Medal of Honor recipients.

The Ellwood City post office was renamed in Sabo’s honor, as was the former Ewing Park Bridge there. There is a Sgt. Leslie H. Sabo Jr. monument at the borough’s Legion Park and the auditorium in Ellwood City’s Lincoln High School has been renamed Sabo Auditorium.

A 1966 graduate of Lincoln High School, Sabo is only the third Lawrence County resident to receive the Medal of Honor.