Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Long, Winding Road from Heroism to Medal of Honor

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Long, Winding Road from Heroism to Medal of Honor

Article excerpt

It took 42 years, but an Ellwood City soldier who died in a Cambodian jungle after a ferocious, daylong battle during the Vietnam War in 1970 will be decorated next month with the nation's highest military honor.

On May 16, President Barack Obama will present the Medal of Honor to Rose Mary Sabo Brown, widow of Spc. Leslie Sabo, the skinny hometown boy she married in 1969 while he was home on leave.

Sabo died May 10, 1970, while trying to save fellow soldiers during the "Mother's Day ambush" that killed seven of his 101st Airborne Division comrades.

Ms. Brown was fielding media calls Tuesday from around the country, but she'd known about the president's intentions since April 2.

"President Obama called me at my home to say he was going to award the medal to Leslie," said Ms. Brown, 62, who remarried, raised children and divorced and maintains a shrine of sorts to her first husband at her home in Hickory, near New Castle, Lawrence County.

"He told me he can't wait to meet me and host my family at the White House. I'm anxious to meet him."

More than 120 people will attend the White House ceremony, including Sabo's brother, George, and about 50 men from his unit in Vietnam -- Bravo Company, 3rd Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment.

For years, many Bravo veterans who witnessed his courage on May 10 had pushed for him to be recognized.

After hours of desperate fighting to keep his unit from being surrounded, Sabo left cover to start first aid on a wounded comrade, then threw himself on top of the man to shield him from a grenade blast. Badly wounded by fragments in his back, he jumped up and counterattacked, hurling his own grenades and killing two North Vietnamese soldiers.

As the battle dragged on and the unit's ammo ran low, Sabo sprinted through fire again to strip ammo belts from fallen soldiers to distribute to the other men. He ducked behind a tree and was shot in the leg.

As darkness fell, it was up to his platoon to secure a landing zone for helicopters to evacuate 30 wounded men. …

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