Military Times NOW hosts the HomeOfHeroes  Awards & Citations Database

 

Stories of American Heroes - Brought to you from the "Home of Heroes" - Pueblo, Colorado

News From The Past


February 15, 2003

 

 

War Hero's widow faces Eviction

Fund set up to help 70-year-old disabled woman save house

By Diana Lynne
2003 WorldNetDaily.com

Six months before he shipped off to the Vietnam War, Army Sgt. First Class Matthew Leonard and his elementary school sweetheart picked out their dream home, a modest six-room house in Birmingham, Ala., they hoped to purchase and live in with their five children.

But because Leonard was going to war, the insurance companies considered him too much of a risk and would not insure the house. The couple was told to wait until he returned.

"Lois, if I don't make it back, go on with our plan and buy a house," Leonard told his wife of 17 years.

Leonard didn't make it back.

On Feb. 28, 1967, Matthew's platoon came under heavy attack near Suoi Da in South Vietnam by a large enemy force employing small arms, automatic weapons and hand grenades. The platoon leader and other key personnel were wounded, so Leonard assumed command, rallied his troops and set a defensive perimeter.

When a wounded companion fell beyond that perimeter, Leonard rushed to his aid, sustaining a sniper wound as he dragged the man to safety. He refused aid, and continued to lead his platoon in their defense.

Under the cover of the main attack, the enemy moved a machine gun into a location where it could sweep the entire perimeter. This threat was magnified when the platoon machine gun in this area malfunctioned. Leonard quickly crawled to the gun position and was helping to clear the malfunction when the gunner and other men in the vicinity were wounded by fire from the enemy machine gun.

Leonard rose to his feet, charged the enemy gun and destroyed the hostile crew despite being hit several times by enemy fire. He moved to a tree, propped himself against it and continued to engage the enemy until he succumbed to his many wounds.

His valiant acts inspired the remaining members of his platoon to hold back the enemy until assistance arrived.

Leonard was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty." He was one of 20 black Americans to receive that honor in Vietnam. There are only 3,425 identified Medal of Honor recipients total.

The medal and several other awards marking Leonard's distinguished 20-year career in the military now hang on the living room wall of the couple's dream home. Lois Leonard followed her husband's direction and bought the house.

But the 70-year-old disabled woman faces eviction from that home, unless she comes up with $64,000 by Tuesday.

"I'm praying the Lord will touch somebody's heart," Mrs. Leonard told WorldNetDaily.

Bobby Randle, past commander of the Birmingham, Ala., chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, or MOPH, also has been doing a lot of praying.

"I told her, 'Don't have a heart attack; just keep praying that people will be able to help you out,'" Randle told WorldNetDaily.

The MOPH was established by George Washington in 1782 and chartered by Congress in 1932. Along with the Congressional Medal of Honor Society, it's one of only two strictly "combat" organizations in the country.

The organization is comprised exclusively of Purple Heart recipients, and its aim is to protect all who have received the decoration. It provides funds for the welfare and rehabilitation of the decorated through thrift stores and from its annual distribution of The Purple Heart Viola, the group's official flower.

When one of Leonard's neighbors alerted Randle to her predicament, Randle set up a "redemption fund" to try and raise the $64,000 needed to buy the house back from the mortgage company that assumed it after foreclosure. The Jefferson County Sheriff's office is expected to execute an eviction notice on Tuesday.

Leonard fell three months behind on her $661 mortgage payments while trying to renovate the decaying old home. After replacing the roof and fixing the bathroom, the repairs started snowballing to the point she found herself completely rewiring the house.

"Once you get behind, with medical bills and all it's hard to catch up," Leonard said. The widow suffers from diabetes, severe asthma and chronic bronchitis. She has been unable to work and raised the couple's five children on the fixed income of her husband's military benefits and disability payments.

She said her two sons are disabled and also on fixed incomes, and one of her daughters is living with her so she can afford to put her daughter through college.

"My husband always told me, 'Lois, we don't have a lot of money but we've got a lot of love,''' Leonard recalled. "He'd say, 'We married for richer or poorer. You're in the poorer right now.'"

She said raising five children by herself took a lot of prayer.

"I stayed on my knees so much, I wore them out," she laughed.

When asked what her husband would think about her imminent eviction, Leonard replied, "He would be real sad."

Ironically, two years ago it was Leonard's husband who faced an eviction of sorts. His grave site was overtaken by weeds in a condemned cemetery. Randle mobilized Birmingham veterans and succeeded in getting Leonard's remains exhumed and relocated to a veterans' cemetery in Fort Mitchell, Ala.

"I refuse to give up," Randle said of his effort to help Lois Leonard. "I am quite confident that one way or the other the Lord will help me. ... This has to work. Something has to give. I refuse to let that lady get tossed out on the street."

Randle's effort to raise the funds to spare Leonard by Tuesday got served a curve ball since banks are closed in observance of the federal holiday Monday. He plans to spend the weekend camped out at the Western Hill Mall in Fairfield, Ala., collecting donations.

"It gives me chills to think of a person dying for their country and his widow not receiving enough funds to help her survive. We're preparing for war and we can't take care of the ones who are here. Now that hurts," Randle concluded.

Contributions can be made to the "Lois Leonard Redemption Fund" in person at any South Trust Bank in Birmingham, Ala. Checks should be made payable to and sent in care of the fund to 1725 28th Avenue South, Birmingham, AL 35209. Contact Sarah Baker for more details at (205) 948-1070.

 


February 18, 2003

War hero's widow gets reprieve

Eviction on hold after fund set up to spare 70-year-old

By Diana Lynne
2003 WorldNetDaily.com

A war hero's widow who faced eviction from her home today has been granted a reprieve.

According to a veteran's group that's trying to help 70-year-old Lois Leonard keep her house, U.S. Bank in Mobile, Ala., has agreed to extend its deadline a "few days" for her to come up with the $64,000 necessary to redeem it.

"I've got some of my things packed," Leonard told WorldNetDaily, "but I'm praying the Lord will touch somebody's heart."

As WorldNetDaily reported, Leonard lost her husband of 17 years to the Vietnam War in 1967. She lost her elementary school sweetheart and their five children lost their father, but the nation gained a war hero.

Leonard was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty." He was one of 20 black Americans to receive that honor in Vietnam. There are only 3,425 identified Medal of Honor recipients total.

Lois Leonard and her family were flown to Washington, D.C., where they were presented with Matthew's Medal of Honor by President Lyndon Johnson at a Pentagon ceremony on Dec. 19, 1968.

Leonard then promptly bought the modest six-room Birmingham, Ala., home the couple had planned on purchasing upon Matthew's return from the war and hung his Medal of Honor and other decorations marking his distinguished 20-year military career on the living room wall.

"I am proud. I'm just sorry he couldn't make it back. I still hurt for it. It's like it just happened," Leonard told WorldNetDaily.

After succeeding in raising the couple's five children on her own and paying off the home mortgage, the 70-year-old, who suffers from diabetes, severe asthma and chronic bronchitis, found her dream home crumbling around her.

She took out a home equity loan to finance renovations. After replacing the roof and fixing the bathroom, the repairs started snowballing to the point she found herself completely rewiring the house.

When Leonard fell three months behind on her $661 mortgage payments, she said the bank told her to come up with $4,600 or lose the house. The bank ultimately foreclosed on the home and U.S. Bank bought the house. Officials with the mortgage company are willing to return the home back to Leonard for $64,000.

In the meantime, an eviction order has been issued. Jefferson County Sheriff's deputies were expected to execute the eviction order today.

When alerted to Leonard's plight, Bobby Randle, past commander of the Birmingham, Ala., chapter of the Military Order of the Purple Heart, or MOPH, set up a "redemption fund" to try and raise the $64,000.

But his effort to raise the funds to spare Leonard got served a curve ball since banks were closed and no mail was delivered in observance of the federal holiday yesterday. As a result, he said an attorney had managed to negotiate a temporary reprieve for Leonard.

Randle also has contacted his local congressman in hopes that he'll intervene.

"'No' is not in my vocabulary," Randle told WND. "I am quite confident that one way or the other, the Lord will help me figure out a way to help Mrs. Leonard. ... It gives me chills to think of a person dying for their country and his widow not receiving enough funds to help her survive," he said.

While grateful for Randle's efforts, Leonard said she feels embarrassed about all the fuss.

"I feel real bad," Leonard told WND. "Next time, if the house starts falling in, I'm just going to let it happen. It's been a real headache," she said.

 


February 21, 2003

Hero's widow won't lose home 

VIVI ABRAMS
News staff writer

Friends and veterans from around the city and country came together in the last week to raise $60,000, keeping a Vietnam War hero's widow from losing her Birmingham home. 

Next Friday, 36 years to the day of Lois Leonard's husband's death in Vietnam, Bobby Randle of the Military Order of the Purple Heart will present her with the deed to her house. 

"I just can't explain it in words. I'm so happy about the way things turned out," said Leonard, 70. "I thank God for touching the people's hearts to help me. I will be forever grateful to all of you. I feel better than I've felt in a good while." 

About $40,000 came from a donation from the national Congressional Medal of Honor Society, headquartered in Mount Pleasant, S.C. Sgt. Matthew Leonard won the Medal of Honor for his bravery in saving his soldiers during the war. 

The remainder of the money came from well-wishers across the country. Randle said he got at least 500 phone calls since he began looking for help for Leonard last week. Contributors also paid money into a SouthTrust fund for her. 

Leonard fell behind in payments after her house needed major renovations to the roof and electrical system. 

Randle said any extra money that comes in will be used to finish the renovations and give Leonard a hot water heater and central heat and gas.

 

CLICK HERE for the previous article on Matthew Leonard's Re-internment

 

Return To The

Archives Index

 

Home Page

Hall Of Heroes

MOH Community 

NEWS

Kidz Page

FEATURE STORIES
  Profiles In Courage | Wings of ValorThe Brotherhood of Soldiers At War | Go For Broke
 Pearl Harbor  | A Splendid Little War | Shinmiyangyo-Korea 1871 | Quick Links to MOH Stories

RECIPIENT WEB SITES
Barney Barnum  |  Jack Lucas  |  Mitch Paige  |  Wesley Fox  |  Sammy Davis
Roger Donlon
Peter Lemon  |  Drew Dix  |  Mike Novosel

Medal Of Honor Calendar  |  Books By MOH RecipientsSteve Ryan MOH Posters

What Does 
A Hero Look Like?

Click on Superman To Find out


FOOTNOTES
In
HISTORY

NEW
Looking for a Hero or trying to verify awards? We have posted the names of more than 120,000 recipients of the highest awards in a BRAND NEW FREE SECTION
DECORATIONS 1862 - Present
.

Military Medals & Awards 

Information and Images of ALL Military Medals
The Purple Heart 
How to Request Records/Medals Earned
  How to Obtain Military Records of a Family Member 

Honor Roll of America's Military Heroes


Brevet Medal


DSC 


Navy Cross 


Air Force Cross 

Distinguished Service Medals

Defense - Army - Navy - Air Force - Coast Guard - Merchant Marine



Silver Star

U.S. History and Information
The History Room | U.S. Flag HistoryHistory of the Flag |
How to Display the Flag
| The National Anthem | The Pledge of Allegiance The American Creed | The Seal of our Nation | Our National Symbol
Arthur MacArthur's Flag | William Carney's Flag | FDR's Flag of Liberation]

FLAG DAY           STATE FLAGS
American Presidents
U.S. Presidents | Inaugural Addresses

God & Country
ROOM

MY HERO Web Page Creator 
(Create a Tribute to the Hero in Your Own Life)

SEARCH
bn_search.jpg (3967 bytes)
OUR SITE

EDUCATIONAL

GAME ARCADE

OR
Quick Quiz

***
Electronic Post Cards
Talking Points 

Remembering 911
The Binch
Citizens Speak Out

BEYOND THE MEDAL

This 5 Disc DVD Education Program has been distributed to over 17,500 Public & Private High Schools and is now available to the public!


 

HomeOfHeroes.com now has more than 25,000 pages of US History for you to view.