The military has never been shy about awarding medals and giving recognition to those who receive them.  During WWII, it was not uncommon to see Medal of Honor recipients on the media trail, again doing their part, trying to drum up support and selling war bonds.  Every once in a while, heroic acts that are known to the commanders and survivors are lost to the pages of history, with the person or people involved never formally recognized.  Citations may be lost or down graded, occasionally, there may be a security reason as to why there is no public recognition.  It may not be politically or diplomatically viable to advertise the actions that may have had the desired strategic importance in the end, but may have had a cloudy reason for happening in the first place.  Sometimes, much to the chagrin to an institution that is known for not throwing anything out and documenting everything, paperwork is just lost.  This was just the case of Specialist 4, Leslie H. Sabo.

Special 4 Leslie H. Sabo

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Sabo was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor this week by President Obama, 42 years after his heroic actions helped save the lives of many men in his unit.  In doing so he sacrificed himself in order to stop the deadly fire and destroy an enemy bunker.  Prior to his final heroic act he had received shrapnel wound while using his body to shield a fellow soldier from a grenade blast.  Despite his wounds he was able to fire and maneuver towards the bunker, killing enemy en route.  He was able to destroy the bunker with a grenade that he had armed and waited until the last possible moment to throw, knowing this would likely kill him in the process.

The paperwork was lost to the sands of time until about 12 years ago when it was found by Alton Mabb at the National Archives.  Mabb was another veteran of the 101st Airborne, as was Sabo.  Mabb found the paperwork while conducting research for a different project.  He was familiar with the events and began to push the government to award Sabo the long over-due award.  His efforts paid off on May 16th when President Obama presented Sabo’s widow, Rose Mary, with his medal.  The next day at the Pentagon Sabo was inducted into the Hall of Heroes.

There are less than 100 living recipients of the Medal of Honor still alive today.  Remarkably, one of these recipients, Colonel Gordon Roberts, retired from active duty this week, 41 years after he received the Medal of Honor for actions during the Vietnam War.  He is just one month shy of his 62nd birthday.

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These two men are just a few of the brave men who performed against the odds on the field of battle in a country that just a few years before, very few had heard of, and in a war that was so unpopular back home that is just now, almost 40 years since the last combat troops departed, that they are receiving the recognition they deserve.  Colonel Roberts received the nations highest decoration for valor for actions that would probably seen him labeled with horrible monikers by the protestors that spoke so vehemently against the war and took the unfortunate path of blaming those sent to war, rather than the forces behind them going.  Colonel Roberts persevered and managed to make a career worthy of note despite those types of obstacles.

It is never the soldier who starts the wars, that is a failing in government and diplomacy at some level.  It is however, the soldier who is charged with carrying out the objectives of the government.  None of them make it out unscathed, each and every person who goes to war is affected by it in some way.  Even when they do so late, recognition by the government is needed, whether it be for individual actions such as that by Specialist Sabo or recognition for the force as a whole who sacrificed so much to arrive home to scorn and derision.  Recognition may give some small measure of comfort to those who had to give a part of who they are in order to carry out the orders they were handed and in doing so it reinforces the actions of the current service members who continue to fill the breach each and every day and that the personal consequences of the actions they may have to perform are recognized by their leaders and they will do their best to aid and assist them in dealing with them.

 

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