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October 14, 2002

 

 

Veterans' Home Renames Lounge in Hero's Honor

 

By CARLOS QUERIDO Staff Writer

ROCKY HILL- John L. Levitow was a veteran of the Vietnam War, a Medal of Honor recipient, a Veterans Home and Hospital employee, a Rocky Hill resident, and a modest man.

On Nov. 8, 2000, Levitow died of cancer, and on Sept. 30, the Veterans Home and Hospital in Rocky Hill honored the man they called a friend by dedicating the new lounge in the main building to Levitow's memory.

The date was Feb. 24, 1969. Airman 1st Class Levitow was on a mission when a Viet Cong mortar hit his plane, opening a hole two feet in diameter and sending shrapnel through the aircraft.

Levitow was hit by 40 pieces of shrapnel in his back and legs. His crewmen were also wounded. A flare dropped from a crewman's grasp, and if ignited, it would burn through the plane.

A flare normally ignites 20 seconds after it is released. Levitow noticed the smoking flare rolling wildly among thousands of rounds of ammunition. He threw himself onto the flare and dragged it to the opening, even though he had lost partial feeling in his right leg and was losing blood.

After being treated for his injuries, Levitow proceeded to fly an additional 20 combat missions before he was finally discharged from the Air Force.

His actions on that February day proved worthy of the Medal of Honor, which was presented by President Richard Nixon.

Department of Veteran Affairs Commissioner Eugene Migliaro believes Levitow is the only member of the Air Force to receive the award.

"It was an honor and pleasure to have worked with John for four years," he said. Levitow was the program director at the Veterans Home and Hospital before he died at the age of 55.

"He was a quiet man who never bragged about his feat, and he was a hell of a buddy," Migliaro said. "After his injury that put him in the hospital, he proceeded to fly another 80 missions. He didn't just pack it up and go home."

Migliaro believes Levitow is the perfect example of the word hero and heroism. "Heroism - he lived every sense of that," Migliaro said.

Levitow is one of 53 men to have received the Medal of Honor in Connecticut. Only 310 people have received it in the entire country.

Besides the lounge, a street on the Veterans Home and Hospital property is also named after Levitow, and according to Migliaro, they are planning to build a sports center that will be named after him.

"I hope he knows we are thinking of him," Migliaro said.

 

2002, by The Herald
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