Medal of Honor recipient honored, joins others from storied 101st Airborne Division
January 29, 2013
FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. (Jan. 25, 2013) -- The 101st Airborne Division's latest Medal of Honor recipient was honored during an emotional ceremony, Jan. 25, at McAuliffe Hall on Fort Campbell, Ky.
Sgt. Leslie H. Sabo Jr. was awarded the nation's highest award for valor in combat by the President of the United States of America during a White House ceremony, May 16, 2012; approximately 42 years after Sabo gave his life while protecting his fellow Soldiers during an ambush in the jungles of Cambodia.
"As we induct Sergeant Leslie H. Sabo Jr. in to the Medal of Honor Rotunda today, let us forever remember him as a loving husband, brother and friend," said Maj. Gen. James C. McConville, commander of the 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). "Let us remember him as a "Currahee," a Screaming Eagle and a true American hero."
On May 10, 1970, while serving in the Vietnam War as part of the Company B, 3rd Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division, Sabo and others were on patrol in neighboring Cambodia, when ambushed by a much larger enemy force. Sabo immediately charged forward killing several enemy fighters and successfully thwarted an enemy flanking effort before sprinting across an open field to assist a wounded comrade.
When an enemy grenade landed nearby, he threw the grenade back and shielded the wounded Soldier from the resulting blast--which seriously wounded him in the process. Sabo then charged an enemy bunker through a barrage of automatic weapons fire, and silenced the bunker with a grenade, which also took his own life, and caused the enemy to retreat. Seven others lost their lives during the ambush. Sabo was posthumously promoted from specialist four to the rank of sergeant.
The 101st fought in the Vietnam War for nearly seven years and lost more than 4,000 Soldiers during the conflict. Of the 20 Medal of Honor recipients in the division's history, 18 of those Soldiers earned their medal while serving in the Vietnam War.
Sabo's medal recommendation was lost for 29 years after his death, eventually turning up at the National Archives in 1999. Discovered by a writer for the 101st Airborne Division Association's magazine, Tony Mabb, the recommendation finally came to fruition in 2012.
Dozens of Screaming Eagle patches were present amongst the veterans of Co. B, whose members filled several rows of seats during the ceremony. Among the veterans was Sabo's company commander in 1970, former Capt. Jim Waybright.
"He was very intelligent, and a jokester, and never showed he was a gung-ho Soldier guy," Waybright said. "But when the bullets started flying, he saved a bunch of lives in Cambodia."
Sabo's widow, Rose Mary Sabo-Brown, visited the 4th BCT headquarters before the ceremony and toured the unit's Currahee Memorial. She found Leslie's name etched into the back of the "Vietnam" monument, and paused for a photo while touching his name.
Before unveiling the plaque, Sabo-Brown spoke about all the 'insteads' she's faced. How his immigrant family intended to flee to Australia, but instead they ended up in America. And, instead of college and a long life together, Sabo was drafted into the Army and sent to Vietnam.
"I don't know why there were always 'insteads,' but if this wouldn't have happened, a lot of men would have lost their lives, instead," Sabo-Brown said.