Western Pennsylvania soldier to receive Medal of Honor
Bipartisan effort leads to overdue recognition of Sgt. Leslie H. Sabo Jr.
Congressman Jim Gerlach (PA-6th District) welcomed an announcement from President Barack Obama late Monday night that Sgt. Leslie H. Sabo Jr. has earned the Medal of Honor (MOH).
Sabo, who lived in Ellwood City, Lawrence County, heroically fought to protect his fellow soldiers during a fierce firefight in Cambodia on May 10, 1970. He died in combat that day.
President Obama announced Monday that he will award the MOH to Sgt. Sabo's widow, Rose Mary Sabo-Brown, in a White House ceremony on May 16.
Congressman Gerlach, who also is an Ellwood City native, worked with Democratic Congressman Jason Altmire (PA-4th District) and urged the Department of Defense to finalize Sabo's MOH nomination, which had languished for decades.
“The soldiers who served with Sgt. Sabo and his family have known for more than four decades that his heroism and valor merited our country’s highest military honor," Gerlach said Monday night. "So it is fitting that our country will forever remember Sgt. Sabo’s extraordinary sacrifice to save the lives of so many of his fellow soldiers. We remain eternally grateful to Sgt. Sabo for his selfless service and the citizens of Ellwood City and Lawrence County can be most proud of this incredible hero.”
On May 10, 1970, SPC Sabo and his platoon were ambushed by North Vietnamese soldiers. Amid heavy fire, he ran to distribute ammunition to his fellow soldiers and was wounded as he threw himself over a wounded comrade to shield him from a grenade blast. Despite his wounds, Sabo fired and provided cover to medical evacuation helicopters as they retrieved wounded soldiers. Sabo was then killed by enemy fire.
SPC Sabo's MOH recommendation languished for decades until it was discovered in 1999 by Alton Mabb, a Vietnam veteran from Florida in the National Archives. Mabb contacted his Congresswoman, Corrine Brown, who later inserted language in the Fiscal Year 2008 Department of Defense (DoD) Authorization bill granting the president the authority to award Sabo the Medal of Honor, even though the three-year statute of limitations for his award had long expired.
After being contacted by Sabo's widow, Rose Mary Sabo-Brown, Congressmen Gerlach and Altmire urged DoD officials to complete consideration of this case as soon as possible. After repeated letters and phone calls, U.S. Secretary of the Army John McHugh finally contacted Congressman Altmire on March 31, 2010 to say to that U.S. Department of Defense was officially recommending that the President award Sabo the MOH.
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